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How Substances Affect Pregnancy

Opioids, marijuana, tobacco and alcohol are substances that may negatively affect pregnancy. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, it is best to not consume these substances.



Opioid use while pregnant can affect the mom and baby. The number of women with OUD at the time of labor and delivery more than quadrupled from 1999 to 2014. Opioid use disorder (OUD) during pregnancy has been linked to preterm birth, stillbirth, maternal mortality and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

NAS is a group of conditions that can occur when newborns withdraw from substances like opioids. When a baby withdraws from opioids within the first 28 days of life, it is often called neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS). Signs of withdrawal usually begin within 72 hours after birth and may include tremors, irritability, sleep problems, hyperactive reflexes, seizures, yawning, stuffy nose, sneezing, poor feeding and sucking, vomiting, loose stool, dehydration and increased sweating.

From the CDC’s Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) and two additional maternal and infant health surveys, it was found that 7% of women reported using prescription opioids during pregnancy. Out of these reported cases, 32% said that they were not counseled by a healthcare provider about the potential effects of prescription opioid use on the baby. Twenty-seven percent of the women surveyed reported that they wanted to reduce or eliminate the use of opioids. Likewise, one in five reported misuse of prescription opioids.

There is limited information regarding the long-term effects of opioid use on the baby while pregnant. However, based on a recent study, it is suggested that children with NAS were more likely to have a delay in speech or language impairment when compared to children without NAS. It is not clear if this was due to opioids specifically, other substance exposures or other environmental factors.



Anyone who is pregnant or may become pregnant is advised to avoid marijuana as it can be harmful to the baby’s health. Chemicals in marijuana (in particular, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) can pass through the mother’s system to the baby and can cause developmental issues and a low birth weight.

In the long-term, some research found that marijuana use during pregnancy may make it hard for the child to pay attention or learn.



Smoking tobacco products, including vapes and e-cigarettes, while pregnant can increase health problems for developing babies. It can cause preterm birth, low birth weight, birth defects of the mouth and lip and damage to the lungs and brain. Likewise, smoking during and after pregnancy increases the baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

If you are or are looking to become pregnant, please talk to your healthcare provider about quitting or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free support.



When pregnant, there is no same time, safe type nor safe amount of alcohol to drink. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are preventable by not consuming alcohol while pregnant. Expecting mothers that consume alcohol pass alcohol to their baby through the umbilical cord.

Consuming alcohol while pregnant may cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. Children with FASDs may show signs of abnormal facial features, small head size, shorter than average height, Low body weight, poor coordination, hyperactive behavior, difficulty with attention, poor memory, difficulty in school (especially with math), learning disabilities, speech and language delays, intellectual disability or low IQ, poor reasoning and judgment skills, sleep and sucking problems as a baby, vision or hearing problems and/or problems with the heart, kidney or bones.



Taking these substances while pregnant may negatively affect the baby. If you are pregnant or expect to be pregnant, it is best to talk with your healthcare provider or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to create a substance free pregnancy plan.


Source: https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/substance-abuse/substance-abuse-during-pregnancy.htm#tobacco