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Alcohol or Drug Use During Pregnancy

Table of Contents


One of the most important things you can do when you're pregnant is to avoid alcohol and drugs. During pregnancy, everything you eat, drink, or take into your body affects you and your growing baby. Using alcohol or drugs while you're pregnant can cause serious problems. It can cause problems for you during your pregnancy and when it is time for your baby to be born. It can also affect your baby both before and after birth.

The best time to stop using alcohol and drugs is before you get pregnant. But sometimes pregnancy is unexpected. Drugs and alcohol can harm your baby in the first weeks of pregnancy, so the sooner you can stop, the better.

Risks of substance use during pregnancy


Possible effect on mother

Possible effect on fetus or baby


  • Lack of certain vitamins
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Low birth weight
  • Intellectual disability
  • Heart problems
  • Learning and behavior problems
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome


  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema)
  • Breathing problems
  • Heart problems
  • Placenta abruptio
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Certain birth defects
  • Low birth weight


  • Effects not known
  • Delayed motor skills
  • Learning problems

Heroin or opioids

  • High blood pressure during pregnancy (preeclampsia)
  • Bleeding in the third trimester
  • Placenta abruptio
  • Breech birth
  • Seizures
  • Withdrawal symptoms after birth
  • Breathing problems
  • Low birth weight
  • Physical and mental development problems


  • Life-threatening breathing problems
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Coma
  • Low birth weight
  • Problems with how bones form
  • Learning problems


  • Early (preterm) labor
  • Low birth weight
  • Learning and development problems


  • Stroke
  • Brain damage
  • Miscarriage
  • Placenta abruption
  • Low birth weight
  • Learning and memory problems


  • Confusion
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Risk of overdose
  • Certain birth defects

Getting help to stop using alcohol or drugs

You may already know that alcohol and drugs can harm you and your baby. But it can still be hard to stop. Changing your behaviors isn't easy. Some people need treatment to help them quit using drugs or alcohol.

Here are some things you can do.

Credits for Alcohol or Drug Use During Pregnancy

Current as of: November 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

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