The Risks of Drug Use in Pregnancy

Drugs like cocaine and marijuana can cause a lot of harm to a baby in the womb. Many people of childbearing age in the U.S. use some form of drugs. 

Risks to the pregnant person

A person taking drugs during pregnancy raises their risk for:

  • Anemia

  • Blood and heart infections

  • Skin infections

  • Hepatitis

  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

  • Other infectious diseases

Risks to the baby

Almost every drug goes from the pregnant parent’s' bloodstream through the placenta to the baby. Drugs that cause addiction in the mother also cause the baby to be addicted.


In some states, marijuana is legal. But pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should still not use it. When used in pregnancy, it may be linked to cognitive and behavioral problems in the baby.


Use of this drug by a mother during pregnancy can lead to:

  • Miscarriage

  • Preterm delivery of the baby

  • Premature detachment of the placenta

  • High blood pressure

  • Stillbirth

The baby is more likely to have:

  • Low birth weight

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

  • Growth defects

  • Hyperactivity

  • Behavioral problems

  • Learning problems

Dextroamphetamine and methamphetamine

These can cause:

  • Miscarriage

  • Preterm birth

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDs)

  • Signs of withdrawal in the newborn, such as shaking, and trouble sleeping and feeding

  • Later problems in the baby with tremors and muscle tone

Heroin and other opiates

This includes methadone. These can cause:

  • Major withdrawal in the baby, with some symptoms lasting for weeks

  • Apnea (stopping breathing)

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDs)

  • Feeding problems

Talking with a healthcare provider

If you take drugs and need help to stop, talk with a healthcare provider. If a person stops taking drugs during the first trimester, they increase their chances of having a healthy baby. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Irina Burd MD PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2023
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