Why Should You Avoid Drugs & Alcohol During Pregnancy? | Family Health

Family Health

Why Avoid Drug and Alcohol Use During Pregnancy

A pregnant woman’s health is critical to the good health of her baby. Staying away from drug and alcohol use may be the most important thing you can do to stay healthy during pregnancy. Drugs and alcohol can affect how the baby grows and the long-term health of the baby. Drug and alcohol uses may also put them at risk for some serious conditions.1

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) happens when a baby is born addicted to drugs and then goes through drug withdrawal after birth. Babies with NAS are born to mothers who used street drugs during pregnancy like:

  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy, meth or other club drugs
  • Heroin
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription drugs that are abused


Street drugs are not only against the law to have or use, but they can be very harmful for you and your baby.


What happens to babies with NAS?

NAS babies can suffer from health problems, that may lead into long term issues. They typically suffer from the following:


  • Jitteriness and high-pitched crying
  • Low birth weight and/or premature birth
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty feeding and gaining weight
  • Fever and infections such as hepatitis, AIDS and Zika. These viruses often affect people who share needles when they use street drugs. Moms can pass these infections to the baby during pregnancy or birth.


Babies born with NAS, are at higher risk for  problems such as learning disabilities, slower than normal growth and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). You can protect your baby from NAS by not using drugs and alcohol and not smoking when you are pregnant.


You can get help to quit using street drugs. Talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help you get off drugs by prescribing a safe plan for you and your baby.


Preparing for baby is an exciting time. Good care before the baby arrives will help set your baby up for a healthy life.


If you need help, Gateway is here to help. In our MOM Matters program, you’ll learn about:


  • How we can support you by referring you to community services.
  • Signs of preterm labor and of a normal pregnancy.
  • How we can arrange for a nurse to visit you in your home before or after your baby is born.

You can call the MOM Matters line at 1-800-392-1147 (TDD/TTY: 711). Press Option 4 for Special Needs. Then, select Option 2 for MOM Matters.

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