Using drugs while pregnant is extremely damaging to both mother and baby. If the drugs themselves aren’t harmful enough, additional risks come with the very possible presence of unknown impurities within the drugs as filler.

Pregnant women who use drugs are also more likely to have poor nutrition and engage in unhealthy behaviour, thus putting the unborn fetus at additional risk. Because illicit drugs and their associated affects differ greatly from person to person, it is hard to know the precise ways in which they are harmful to unborn babies, and to what capacities.

It is, however, well known that there are several risks involved when unborn babies are exposed to certain drugs. Due to the unknown nature of their effects, it is therefore recommended that drug use be avoided at all costs. The same rule should be applied to prescription drugs, unless their usage is either imperative or vital.

Here’s a list of several drugs and their associated effects:


  • Studies have suggested that pregnant women who smoke marijuana six or more times a week may slow fetal growth and increase the risk of premature birth.
  • After birth, babies who have been exposed to marijuana may suffer from withdrawal symptoms including excessive crying and trembling. They may also have trouble sleeping, difficulty with state regulation (changes in their environment) and highly sensitive to stimulation.
  • As the child grows, it may develop behavioural problems and attention deficit disorders.
  • Cocaine

  • Cocaine use while pregnant is strongly correlated with low birth weight babies and miscarriage.
  • Babies born with low birth rates are more susceptible to strokes, developing lifelong disabilities such as developmental delays, various mental disabilities and congenital disorders such as cerebral palsy.
  • Other possible effects on babies exposed to cocaine while in the womb include reduced motor skills and abilities, sleeping problems, heart defects, urinary-tract malformations and defects, irreversible brain damage and death.
  • Ecstasy & Methamphetamine

  • A small study suggested an increased risk of congenital heart defects and skeletal defects such as clubfoot in babies born to women using Ecstasy during their pregnancies.
  • Methamphetamine use while pregnant may result in premature births and placental problems, heart defects and facial disfigurements such as cleft lips or palates.
  • Heroin

  • Heroin use while pregnant poses many risks and health complications to unborn babies, including stunted fetal growth, low birth rates, premature birth and possible stillbirth. Pregnant women who share needles are at risk of contracting HIV and Hepatitis C, both of which can be passed on to the baby in the womb or at the time of birth.
  • Once born, these babies can suffer from respiratory issues and lifelong disabilities. They face an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and may also suffer from various congenital birth defects and/or withdrawal symptoms, which are often life threatening.
  • Withdrawal symptoms in babies exposed to cocaine show themselves within three days from birth. How long they last depend on the mother’s frequency and duration of use. Symptoms can include irritability, trembling, fever, sneezing, seizures, incessant crying and vomiting.
  • Pregnant women using heroin who stop using suddenly can cause additional harm to an unborn baby. In such situations, it is extremely important to first seek medical advice or the assistance of a drug-treatment center.
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