If someone is planning to get pregnant in the near future, they should be committed to abstaining from drugs and alcohol for at least nine months to increase the chances of giving birth to a healthy baby. Illegal substances, prescription medications, alcohol, nicotine, and over-the-counter medicines can all have a negative impact on both the mother & the child and can result in some irreversible health concerns.

Pregnancy & Drug Or Alcohol Use

There is a reason why pregnant women are told not to use alcohol or drugs until after giving birth. While a few over-the-counter medicines and prescription drugs may be safe for pregnant individuals, most are not recommended. This is because everything a pregnant woman consumes goes directly to her baby. If she smokes a cigarette, her baby is ingesting the smoke and the nicotine. If she drinks a cup of coffee, her baby will be affected by the caffeine. So if a woman decides to drink alcohol or use drugs, those substances will go right to her baby as well. Any amount of these substances can be harmful to a baby’s health and overall well-being.

Effects of Using During Pregnancy

Using drugs or alcohol during pregnancy can cause a variety of risks that vary from person to person. What someone is at risk for will depend on the type of substance used, the number of times the drug was used, when the drug was used, and other related factors. However, there are some general health risks associated with using substances during pregnancy. For example, all drugs have the potential to cause developmental problems in children. Whether a pregnant woman decides to drink or smoke cigarettes, she is signing her baby up for developmental issues. Some additional health risks of using substances during pregnancy include:

  • Stillbirth
  • Small size
  • Miscarriage
  • Low birth weight
  • Premature birth
  • Birth defects
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Drug dependency in the baby

Exposure to drugs and alcohol before birth could even lead to problems during childhood and even into adolescence. These issues may include problems with memory, decreased attentiveness, and brain structure changes.

Certain substances may also pose their own unique risks during pregnancy. Babies born to mothers who use crack-cocaine, for example, could have their own set of problems. Being exposed to cocaine before birth could result in deficits with cognitive performance, processing information, and paying attention to tasks. Babies who have been exposed to cocaine are known to have smaller heads, which may signify a lower IQ. Cocaine also has the potential to cause heart attacks, strokes, and seizures in both the pregnant mother and the baby.

Even consuming something legal, like cigarettes, can have a negative impact on unborn babies. Smoking cigarettes could lead to heart issues in both baby and mother, placenta problems, cleft palate, low-weight babies, premature birth, and related health complications.

Additionally, drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause life-long health concerns like fetal alcohol syndrome. This syndrome involves symptoms like growth deficiency, abnormal facial features, attention span disorders, learning disabilities, and central nervous system issues.

Preventing Drug Use & Abuse During Pregnancy

If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, it might be a good idea to avoid prescription drugs unless your doctor specifically recommends them. Talk to your doctor about all prescriptions you are using at the beginning of your pregnancy. If you need an over-the-counter medicine for any reason, always read the label before purchasing or consuming. Some common OTC medicines like aspirin and ibuprofen should not be used in the last 3 months of pregnancy.

Women who have substance abuse issues are encouraged to receive treatment before trying to get pregnant. Quitting alcohol and drugs before pregnancy is ideal, but some women may have a harder time stopping and could become pregnant unexpectedly. In those cases, some rehab facilities offer substance abuse treatment specifically designed for pregnant women.

Substance Abuse Treatment for New Mothers

If a woman is not able to stop using drugs or alcohol during and after a pregnancy, she may be struggling with a substance abuse problem. Thankfully, there are many treatment options available with the flexibility needed for people who have just had babies. Outpatient and intensive outpatient programs allow new moths to live at home with their child while receiving the help they need to live a happy and healthy life. These programs usually include a combination of treatment methods, like medication management and support groups.


To learn more about the impact of substance abuse on pregnant women and their babies, give our team of addiction treatment specialists a call with any questions at 267.209.7312. Get more information about our treatment offerings and services by visiting us on our detox while pregnancy page.