Drugs and Pregnancy

How drugs during pregnancy can affect your baby

Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it's also a time of sacrifice. If you want your baby to get the best start possible, you may need to alter your lifestyle to boost your own health and keep your growing baby safe and strong. If you use drugs of any sort, that's the first place to make changes.

Illegal drugs and pregnancy can lead to a range of problems, and it's hard to argue that drug abuse during pregnancy is acceptable. However, when it comes to prescription drugs, things can get a little foggy. In some cases, a prescribed medication is vital for the mother's health, and a woman needs to be healthy to grow a healthy baby. On the other hand, certain types of prescription drugs could cause more harm than good to a mother-to-be and the child she's carrying. Learn the facts on drugs and pregnancy and when it's alright to reach for medication.

Narcotics and Illegal Drugs during Pregnancy

It shouldn't come as a surprise that recreational drug use will threaten a healthy pregnancy, but you may assume that, as with many things in life, moderation is the key. However, studies have shown that even occasional use of mind-altering drugs can raise your chances of miscarriage, pregnancy complications and giving birth to an infant with birth defects.

Substances like cocaine and heroin are at the top of the heap when it comes to dangerous drugs, but even relatively "mild" drugs are capable of harm. Marijuana and pregnancy don't mix, no matter how much or how frequently you use it, as even occasional use has been linked to a range of pregnancy complications like severe vomiting, dangerously rapid labor and characteristics like those associated with fetal alcohol syndrome. On a brighter note, there's no evidence to suggest that your past drug use will negatively affect your baby's development, so giving up bad habits as soon as you discover you're pregnant will very likely allow for a healthy pregnancy.

Prescription Drugs and Pregnancy

Certain mild medications like acetaminophen are generally fine to use during pregnancy, as long as you obey the guidelines, but stronger medication can create a dependence and will have much harsher effects on a developing baby. For instance, an opiate like Vicodin during pregnancy could affect the function of the placenta and lead to fetal problems like cranial defects. This is one example of a pregnancy Category C drug, which means that it may be used under a doctor's supervision but must be used very carefully.

Everything you take into your body has the potential to cross the placenta and affect your baby, but the specific health problems will often depend on where you are in your pregnancy. For instance, the first trimester is the most important developmental stage, but drugs taken in the final weeks of pregnancy can cause your baby to experience withdrawal symptoms. If you were taking prescription drugs regularly when you became pregnant, get your doctor's opinion on whether the medication is safe to continue or if you should find a new course of treatment; if you have been abusing prescription drugs, speak with your doctor immediately to get help.