Skip to content

    Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

    Font Size

    Alcohol or Drug Use During Pregnancy - Topic Overview

    During pregnancy, everything you eat, drink, or take into your body affects you and your growing baby (fetus). Pregnant women often need to make changes to have a healthy pregnancy, such as eating better or exercising. But one of the most important things you can do when you are pregnant is to avoid alcohol and drugs.

    Alcohol and drugs can cause problems for you during your pregnancy and when it is time for your baby to be born. They can also affect your baby both before and after he or she is born. They can:

    Did You Know?

    Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will cover preventive mental health services, including screening tests for depression and alcohol misuse, at no cost to you. Learn more.

    Health Insurance Center

    • Affect your baby's size.
    • Affect how your baby's heart, lungs, and brain work.
    • Cause lifelong learning, emotional, and physical problems for your child.

    Using alcohol and drugs like cocaine or meth is not safe for you or your baby.

    The best time to stop using alcohol and drugs is before you get pregnant. But sometimes pregnancy is unexpected. Since drugs and alcohol can harm your baby in the first weeks of pregnancy, the sooner you can stop, the better.

    Even some over-the-counter and prescription medicines aren't safe to take when you're pregnant. Tell your doctor about all the drugs and supplements you take. He or she can help you decide what medicines are safe to take during pregnancy.

    How do alcohol and drugs affect your pregnancy?


    Possible effect on mother

    Possible effect on fetus, newborn, and child




    • Effects not known
    • Long-term memory problems
    • Learning problems


    • Seizures
    • Addiction, withdrawal symptoms after birth
    • Breathing problems
    • Small size at birth
    • Physical and mental development problems


    • Life-threatening breathing problems
    • Convulsions or seizures
    • Coma
    • Low birth weight
    • Problems with how bones form
    • Learning problems



    • Low birth weight
    • Heart and lung problems


    • Withdrawal symptoms after birth
    • Learning problems
    • Emotional problems
    • Behavior problems
    1 | 2 | 3
    1 | 2 | 3
    Next Article:

    Alcohol or Drug Use During Pregnancy Topics

    Today on WebMD

    child ignored by parents
    prescription pain pills
    Woman experiencing withdrawal symptoms
    Teen girl huddled outside house
    Man with glass of scotch
    overturned shot glass
    assortment of medication
    Depressed and hurting