Street drugs and some pharmaceutical drugs can be harmful for you and for your developing baby during pregnancy.
Support is available to help you understand how certain drugs might affect your pregnancy and to help you manage or even stop your drug use.
If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, talk to your health care provider about any drugs or medications you are taking, even if you are using a medication without the advice of a health care provider, or for non-medical reasons.
Using street drugs when you’re pregnant can increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and preterm delivery. You may also eat poorly, not get enough sleep, and be at risk for diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. Mothers who continue to use street drugs are usually advised not to breastfeed.
Opioids (such as morphine, oxycodone, or fentanyl) are medications that are often prescribed as pain relievers. Opioid use during pregnancy can increase your risk of miscarriage or preterm birth. Your baby may be born with a low birth weight, experience withdrawal symptoms, or have their feeding and sleeping patterns affected. Your health care provider can connect you to supports that can help you manage your opioid use in the safest way for you and your baby.
Sedatives such as Xanax, Valium or Ativan (Benzodiazepines) are sometimes prescribed to treat anxiety or sleep problems. These can be harmful to your baby when taken during pregnancy, especially if they are taken at the same time as opioids or alcohol. It is recommended you talk to your health care provider if you are pregnant and taking sedatives.
Cocaine and Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth)
Stimulants such as cocaine and crystal meth can be very harmful to your health, affecting your heart rate, energy, sleeping patterns, memory and mental health. When you’re pregnant, they can cause very serious health concerns for you and your baby, as well as putting your baby at risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Using heroin when you’re pregnant can increase the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Moms-to-be need help to slowly decrease their use so the baby doesn’t have withdrawal symptoms. After withdrawal, children whose mothers used heroin during pregnancy may do well in the long term, if they were protected from other risks and raised in a positive environment.
Inhaling solvents (such as glue, gasoline, paint thinner and cleaning fluids) or aerosols (such as compressed gases from hairspray and spray paint cans) can increase the risk of miscarriage and a range of physical birth defects. Babies whose mothers use inhalants, or come into contact with them frequently during pregnancy, may also be at risk for long lasting mental health and behaviour problems similar to those seen in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
Help to Stop Using
If you find it hard to stop using street drugs, specialized services can help you quit or find other ways to reduce harm to yourself and your baby. Start by contacting one of these community resources:
health care providers
street nurses and clinics
pregnancy outreach programs
You can also call the Alcohol and Drug Information and Referral Line, toll free at 1-800-663-1441.
Motherisk is a Canadian organization that provides support specifically to pregnant and breastfeeding women. To reach their Alcohol and Substance Use Helpline, dial toll free 1-877-327-4636.
For more information about their services, visit the Motherisk website.