Avoiding Substance Use While Pregnant
- Substance use can range from occasional vaping to illegal drug abuse, but all are harmful for you & your baby while pregnant.
- Using these drugs & other substances can cause birth defects, prematurity, & more serious problems.
- Sometimes it's not easy to stop these behaviors so use our helpful resources to build up your support system & quit for good.
Using substances like alcohol, tobacco, & certain drugs while pregnant are big no no’s, but why is that? These chemicals & substances can pass directly through the umbilical cord to your baby, possibly causing problems for both you & your baby during pregnancy.
In Georgia, 1 out of every 20 pregnant people report smoking during pregnancy. Nationally, the most commonly used substances during pregnancy are alcohol and tobacco, followed by marijuana and opioids. Learn more about the risks of these substances during pregnancy below our references list.
If you are pregnant & cannot stop drinking or using one of these substances, get help! Contact your healthcare provider, local support groups, or local treatment center.
- Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.)
- Smokefree Build Your Quit Plan
- Treatment Locator — FindTreatment.gov
- Georgia Department of Health – Ready to Quit
- SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
- Pregnant? Concerned About Opioid Use? Video Series
If you have a child whose development has possibly been affected by substance use during pregnancy, there are support groups & assistance services available to help. Click here for those resources.
- Cigarette Smoking During Pregnancy: United States 2016, CDC
- Trends in Alcohol Use Among Pregnant Women in the U.S., 2011–2018, American Journal of Preventive Medicine
- Treating for Two, CDC
- Alcohol Use in Pregnancy, CDC
- Is It Safe?, March of Dimes
- Smoking During Pregnancy, March of Dimes
- About Opioid Use During Pregnancy, CDC
- Marijuana and Pregnancy, March of Dimes
- Peristats, March of Dimes
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause problems such as miscarriage or stillbirth. Alcohol use can also cause behavioral & intellectual disabilities known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Babies’ brains develop all throughout pregnancy, & exposure to alcohol at any time can affect them. It is never too late to stop drinking during pregnancy!
Smoking during pregnancy exposes the baby to many harmful chemicals, including nicotine, carbon monoxide, & tar. Not only are these chemicals bad for you, but they can also cause miscarriage or stillbirth, premature birth, birth defects, & low birth weight. The best way to keep you & your baby safe from these effects is to quit smoking before getting pregnant. But it is never too late to quit, & stopping any time during pregnancy can have a positive effect on your baby’s life.
Marijuana use during pregnancy may cause problems like premature birth, problems with brain development, & stillbirth. While there is less information on marijuana use during pregnancy, no amount of marijuana has been shown to be safe for use during pregnancy. If you’re thinking of using marijuana to help with morning sickness, talk to your provider about other treatments that they recommend & are supported by scientific evidence.
Both prescription opioids & illegal opioids, such as heroin, can affect women & their babies if used during pregnancy. Opioid use can cause stillbirth, poor fetal growth, preterm birth, birth defects, or a withdrawal syndrome called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS occurs when a baby goes through withdrawal from a substance they were exposed to in the womb. This can cause symptoms such as tremors, excessive crying, & sleep problems in the newborn. If you are pregnant & using opioids, talk to your health care provider! Suddenly stopping opioids during pregnancy can cause severe problems for you & your baby, including death. Talk to your provider about safe ways to stop taking opioids.