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Pregnancy and Substance Abuse

Summary

When you are pregnant, you are not just "eating for two." You also breathe and drink for two, so it is important to carefully consider what you give to your baby. If you smoke, use alcohol or take illegal drugs, so does your unborn baby.

To protect your baby, you should avoid

  • Tobacco. Smoking during pregnancy passes nicotine and cancer-causing drugs to your baby. Smoke also keeps your baby from getting nourishment and raises the risk of stillbirth or premature birth.
  • Drinking alcohol. There is no known safe amount of alcohol a woman can drink while pregnant. Alcohol can cause life-long physical and behavioral problems in children, including fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • Illegal drugs. Using illegal drugs may cause underweight babies, birth defects, or withdrawal symptoms after birth.
  • Misusing prescription drugs. If you are taking prescription medicines, carefully follow your health care provider's instructions. It can be dangerous to take more medicines than you are supposed to, use them to get high, or take someone else's medicines. For example, misusing opioids can cause birth defects, withdrawal in the baby, or even loss of the baby.

If you are pregnant and you are doing any of these things, get help. Your healthcare provider can recommend programs to help you quit. You and your baby's health depends on it.

Dept. of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health

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