Call us today
At American Addiction Centers, we strive to provide the most up-to-date and accurate medical information on the web so our readers can make informed decisions about their healthcare.
Our reviewers are credentialed medical providers specializing in addiction treatment and behavioral healthcare. We follow strict guidelines when fact-checking information and only use credible sources when citing statistics and medical information. Look for the medically reviewed badge ( Medically Reviewed Badge ) on our articles for the most up-to-date and accurate information.
If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate or out-of-date, please let us know at ContactAAC@ContactAAC.com.
Substance use during pregnancy can be dangerous in many ways.
Pregnant women who use substances regularly may have children who are born dependent on those substances. Babies who were regularly exposed to opioids in utero may develop neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a collection of problems that happens because the baby is undergoing opioid withdrawal after birth. NAS may also refer to conditions caused by newborns withdrawing from other substances they became dependent on in utero.
Studies have found that smoking cigarettes, using opioids, drinking alcohol, using cocaine, and using methamphetamine while pregnant can each affect fetal development. Babies exposed to drugs in utero may experience developmental consequences including impaired growth, birth defects, and altered brain development. Prenatal drug exposure may impact the child’s behavior, language, cognition, and achievement long term. Drug use during pregnancy may also lead to miscarriage or pre-term labor.
Based on the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 194,000 pregnant women between the ages of 15 to 44 (8.5%) have used illicit drugs in the past month, including an estimated 161,000 who used marijuana, an estimated 32,000 who misused pain relievers, an estimated 12,000 who misused tranquilizers, and an estimated 8,000 who misused cocaine. An estimated 334,000 pregnant women between the ages of 15 to 44 (14.7%) have used tobacco in the past month, and an estimated 261,000 used alcohol in the past month.Physical Health Problems
Are you worried about you or someone you love? Take our free, confidential addiction questionnaire developed by healthcare professionals.
Using opioids, cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, or other drugs during pregnancy may lead to:
Symptoms that the newborn is suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome may include:
A baby whose mother used certain drugs while pregnant may suffer from long-term problems due to growth failure or birth defects involving the brain, heart, kidneys, or intestines. Infants exposed to drugs in utero have an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Alcohol use during pregnancy is associated with impaired fetal growth, birth defects, and long-term impacts on growth. It may cause a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) in the baby. The most severe type of FASD is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). FASDs may cause physical and psychiatric problems. Possible physical consequences of FASDs include:
Prenatal exposure to amphetamines may cause facial clefts, heart defects, and decreased fetal growth. Neonatal abstinence syndrome might occur in babies exposed to opioids prenatally. These infants may also have impaired growth in utero. Fetal growth reduction is also associated with the use of nicotine, cocaine, or methamphetamine.Emotional and Behavioral Problems
Substances like nicotine, alcohol, opioids, and illegal drugs are associated with long-term mental and behavioral effects in children exposed to them prenatally, such as issues with:
In addition to the possible physical consequences of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, potential psychiatric and social issues include:
Nicotine is linked to neurobehavioral impacts in infants and long-term effects on cognition, achievement, language, and behavior. Alcohol is associated with neurobehavioral effects in infants, and long-term impacts on cognition, language, achievement, and behavior. Marijuana exposure prenatally is related to some infant neurobehavioral alterations and long-term effects on cognition, behavior, and achievement.
Babies exposed to opioids prenatally may have neurobehavioral changes as an infant and long-term behavioral effects. Prenatal exposure to cocaine is associated with some impacts on infant neurobehavior and long-term effects on behavior, executive function, and language. Methamphetamine is linked to neurobehavioral alterations in infants.
Although anyone who struggles with a substance use disorder should seek treatment, it is especially important for women who are or may soon become pregnant. Some treatment centers have programs specifically for women. If you are currently pregnant, make sure any programs you enroll in are able to safely care for pregnant women.