When you are pregnant, you are not just "eating for two." You also breathe and drink for two. If you smoke, use alcohol or take illegal drugs, so does your unborn baby.
To protect your baby, you should avoid:
- Tobacco. Smoking during pregnancy passes nicotine, carbon monoxide, and other harmful chemicals to your baby. This could cause many problems for your unborn baby's development. It raises the risk of your baby being born too small, too early, or with birth defects. Smoking can also affect babies after they are born. Your baby would be more likely to develop diseases such as asthma and obesity. There is also a higher risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Drinking alcohol. There is no known amount of alcohol that is safe for a woman to drink during pregnancy. If you drink alcohol when you are pregnant, your child could be born with lifelong fetal alcohol syndrome disorders (FASD). Children with FASD can have a mix of physical, behavioral, and learning problems.
- Illegal drugs. Using illegal drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines may cause underweight babies, birth defects, or withdrawal symptoms after birth.
- Misusing prescription drugs. If you are taking prescription medicines, carefully follow your health care provider's instructions. It can be dangerous to take more medicines than you are supposed to, use them to get high, or take someone else's medicines. For example, misusing opioids can cause birth defects, withdrawal in the baby, or even loss of the baby.
If you are pregnant and you are doing any of these things, get help. Your health care provider can recommend programs to help you quit. You and your baby's health depend on it.
Dept. of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health
- Pregnant? Don't Smoke! (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Alcohol during Pregnancy (March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation) Also in Spanish
- CDC Vital Signs: Alcohol and Pregnancy (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish
- Cocaine and Pregnancy (Organization of Teratology Information Specialists) - PDF Also in Spanish
- Heroin and Pregnancy (March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation) Also in Spanish
- Marijuana and Pregnancy (Organization of Teratology Information Specialists) - PDF Also in Spanish
- Methamphetamine/Dextroamphetamine and Pregnancy (Organization of Teratology Information Specialists) - PDF Also in Spanish
- Smoking During Pregnancy (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Smoking during Pregnancy (March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation)
- What You Should Know About Using Cannabis, Including CBD, When Pregnant or Breastfeeding (Food and Drug Administration) Also in Spanish
Statistics and Research
- 18 Percent of Pregnant Women Drink Alcohol during Early Pregnancy (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) - PDF
- PeriStats: Perinatal Statistics (March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation)
- Substance Use during Pregnancy Varies by Race and Ethnicity (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) - PDF
- Trends in Substances of Abuse among Pregnant Women and Women of Childbearing Age in Treatment (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) - PDF
- What Treatment Is Available for Pregnant Mothers and Their Babies? (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
- Women and Tobacco Use (American Lung Association)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Pregnancy and Substance Use (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: The tragedy of smoking, alcohol, and multiple substance use during pregnancy.
- Article: Birth Outcomes of Neonates Exposed to Marijuana in Utero: A Systematic...
- Article: Doula engagement and maternal opioid use disorder (OUD): Experiences of women...
- Pregnancy and Drug Use -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Also in Spanish
- Find an Ob-Gyn (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)
- March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation Also in Spanish
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
- National Institute on Drug Abuse Also in Spanish
- Characteristics of Pregnant Teen Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) - PDF
The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.