Avoiding Illicit Drugs During Pregnancy

Armen Hareyan's picture

Pregnancy and Drugs

Pregnant women should remember that whatever they eat, smoke, or drink could affect the developing baby. Pregnant women should avoid alcohol and tobacco. In addition, no drug or medication should be taken without first consulting a doctor. Illicit drugs can be particularly harmful to a developing baby.

How can illicit drugs harm my baby?
Illicit drug use by pregnant women can cause various health problems for the unborn baby. The following is a list of some illicit drugs and the effects that they can have on a fetus:

  • Amphetamines - The use of these drugs has been linked to heart defects in babies born to women who used them. Amphetamines are often sold as a street drug, but the main ingredient in amphetamines can be found in many over-the-counter diet pills.

  • Cocaine - Cocaine use can cause contractions of the uterus, which may lead to bleeding complications or premature labor. Cocaine can cause stillbirth, miscarriage, growth retardation and birth defects in babies.

  • Marijuana - Women who smoke marijuana during their pregnancies may have babies with problems including impaired fetal growth. These smaller babies are more likely to have health problems than are babies born to women who did not use marijuana.


  • Narcotics - Drugs such as heroin can cause growth problems, premature labor and a fetal syndrome of narcotic withdrawal after birth. In addition, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is more likely among babies whose mothers used narcotics during pregnancy.

  • Tranquilizers - Tranquilizers including Valium have been associated with birth defects. Mothers who engage in heavy narcotics use during pregnancy can also have babies who undergo withdrawal symptoms after birth.

  • Glues and solvents - Women who sniff fumes during pregnancy can have babies with birth defects including low weight, short height, joint and limb problems, heart defects, and abnormal facial features.

  • Ecstacy - Pregnant women who use this drug may have babies with long-term learning and memory problems.

If you use drugs, so does your baby. Drugs can affect a baby before and after birth. Before birth, drugs can reach the fetus by crossing the placenta (the organ that connects the developing fetus to the mother's uterus). After a baby is born, drugs can be passed from mother to baby through breast milk.