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Using Drugs During Pregnancy

August 1, 2013 by HealthyFamilies BC

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pregnant woman and man relaxing


Using drugs like marijuana, heroin or meth when you're pregnant can hurt your baby.  

Different drugs have different effects but they’re all potentially dangerous - and specialized support is available if you need help to quit.



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.Using marijuana when you’re pregnant can affect your energy, judgment and motivation. It can also increase the risk of giving birth prematurely, affecting your baby’s growth and long-term health.

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. If you are using needles to inject the heroin and don’t use clean needles each time, you are also at risk for illnesses such as HIV and hepatitis.


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.

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  2. Aging Well
  3. Pregnancy & Parenting
    1. Pregnancy & Birth
    2. Babies (0-12 months)
    3. Toddlers (12-36 months)
    4. Preschool (3-5 years)
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