Drinking or using drugs during pregnancy increases the chance of
miscarriage as well as the risk of having a baby with
physical and emotional problems. These problems can range from mild
problems to severe birth defects.
Fetal alcohol syndrome is a combination of physical and mental birth defects caused by
exposure to alcohol before birth. About 1 in every 1,000 babies is born with
fetal alcohol syndrome.
A baby born with fetal alcohol syndrome
Small size and low birth weight.
small head size and defects of the head and face.
Behavioral problems, such as being overactive or
having poor attention span, as he or she grows up. Children with fetal alcohol
syndrome continue to have behavioral and learning difficulties into
Marijuana use can cause premature delivery, small size, and
low birth weight. Cocaine and amphetamine use can cause spontaneous abortions,
preterm labor, and low birth weight. A baby of a mother addicted to heroin,
cocaine, or amphetamines may experience severe symptoms of drug withdrawal
shortly after birth. Also, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection can be
transmitted from shared needles used to inject drugs. HIV can then pass to the
baby from the infected mother before birth.
Some of the damage
caused by alcohol and drug use can occur very early in pregnancy. If you are
thinking about becoming pregnant, stop drinking or using drugs before trying to
become pregnant. Exposure to drugs or alcohol is particularly damaging during
the first 3 months (first trimester) of pregnancy. Some women do not even
realize that they are pregnant during this time.
Primary Medical Reviewer
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.