Health Encyclopedia


Document Search by P01208

Illegal Drug Use and PregnancyUso de Drogas Ilegales y el Embarazo

Illegal Drug Use and Pregnancy

The risks involved with illegal drug use during pregnancy

The effects of illegal drugs, such as cocaine, can be devastating on a fetus. Unfortunately, many women of childbearing age in the U.S. use some form of illegal drug.

A mother taking illegal drugs during pregnancy increases her risk for anemia, blood and heart infections, skin infections, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases. She also is at greater risk for sexually transmitted diseases. Almost every drug passes from the mother's bloodstream through the placenta to the fetus. Illicit substances that cause drug dependence and addiction in the mother also cause the fetus to become addicted.

A chromatography is a laboratory test performed on a woman's urine that can detect many illegal drugs, including marijuana and cocaine. Both marijuana and cocaine, as well as other illegal drugs, can cross the placenta. Marijuana use during pregnancy may be linked to cognitive and behavioral problems in the baby. Cocaine use can lead to miscarriage, preterm delivery of the fetus, premature detachment of the placenta, high blood pressure, and stillbirth. Infants born to cocaine-using mothers are more likely to have low birth weight and may have an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The effects of cocaine on the baby may include, but are not limited to:

  • Growth defects

  • Hyperactivity

  • Behavioral problems

  • Learning problems

Using dextroamphetamine and methamphetamine can cause miscarriage and preterm birth. Newborns exposed to these drugs in pregnancy often have signs of withdrawal, such as jitteriness, trouble sleeping and feeding, as well as later problems with tremors and muscle tone. They may also be at higher risk for SIDS. 

Heroin and other opiates, including methadone, can cause significant withdrawal in the baby, with some symptoms lasting several weeks. Babies born to opiate-addicted mothers are at higher risk for apnea (stopping breathing) and SIDS. These babies also have feeding difficulties.

If a woman stops taking illegal drugs during her first trimester, she increases her chances of having a healthy baby.

Related Items
Wellness Library
  After Rehabilitation: Here Are Some Tools
  Talk With Your Kids About These Issues
  Primer: A Parent's Guide to Inhalant Abuse
  Primer: What You Need to Know About Ecstasy
  Helping a Friend With an Addiction
  How to Spot Drug Use in Kids
  Cough Medicine Abuse by Teens
  Primer: GHB, the Club Drug
  Understanding the Power of Addiction
  Stages of Substance Abuse
  Health Risks of Alcohol and Drug Abuse
  Teens and Prescription Drugs
  Women and Substance Abuse
  Finding the Right Rehab Program for Substance Abuse
  Is Your Teen Abusing Drugs or Alcohol?
  How to Help Teenagers With Addicted Parents
  Women, Alcohol, and Drugs: The Risks Are Higher
Content Type 167
  MDMA Drug Screen (Urine)
  Tricyclic Antidepressant Screen
  Motivational Enhancement Therapy
  Motivational Interviewing
  Relapse of Alcohol or Drug Abuse and Dependence
HealthInk Healthy Tips
  Parents' Role Important in Preventing Drug Abuse
  Addiction Quiz
  Drug Abuse Quiz
  Drugs and Pregnancy Quiz
  Inhalant Abuse Quiz
  Substance Abuse Assessment
Daily News Feed
  Menthol May Boost Cigarettes' Addictive Properties: Study
  Is 'Sex Addiction' for Real? Study Says Maybe Not
  Risky Gambling Tied to Social Isolation
  Growing Up Poor May Raise Odds for Smoking: Study
  Bump Seen in Substance Abuse Treatment During Pregnancy
  If Parents Ever Smoked, Teens May Be More Likely to Light Up
  Early Discipline Tied to Less Use of Drugs, Alcohol in Teens
  Health Tip: Are You Taking Opioids as Prescribed?
  Many Risk Factors for Early Dementia Can Show Up in Teens
  Abuse of Painkillers Raises Risk of Heroin Use: Study
  Nicotine Addiction Level May Predict Weight Gain in Ex-Smokers
  Fewer U.S. Kids Buying Tobacco Products: Report
  Mental and Substance Disorders Major Cause of Nonfatal Illnesses
  Toddlers Can Die From Swallowing Parents' Drug Detox Meds
  Young Americans' Prescription Med Abuse Still Down: Report
  E-Cigarettes May Equal Nicotine Patches for Smoking Cessation
  Teens' Use of E-Cigarettes Doubles in a Year: CDC
  'Tips From Smokers' Campaign Beat Expectations
  Reality TV Star Discusses Addiction Recovery
  FDA Announces New Safety Measures for Narcotic Painkillers
  'Bath Salts' Drugs Led to 23,000 ER Visits in One Year: U.S. Report
  Opioids Not Winning the Battle Against Pain, Study Suggests
  Intensive Substance-Abuse Treatment Fails to Deliver Better Results: Study
  Anti-smoking Campaign Surpasses Expectations
  Drugged Driving Plays Major Role in Traffic Deaths
  Crystal Meth May Jump-Start Injection Drug Use, Study Says
  Stress Leads Some Doctors to Abuse Prescription Drugs, Study Says
  Study Probes Why Truckers Use Booze, Illicit Drugs
  Longer Detox Might Work Better for Prescription Pain Med Addiction
  Flavored Cigars Gaining in Popularity With U.S. Kids: CDC
  Saturday Is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day
  Reports of U.S. Cases of Flesh-Eating Drug Questioned
  FDA Urges Tighter Controls on Certain Prescription Painkillers
  Mondays Might Be Your Best Day to Quit Smoking
  One in 10 Teens Has Misused Prescription Painkillers: Survey
  Study Probes Heroin Addiction's Effect on the Brain
  Heart Disease No. 1 Cause of Pregnancy-Related Deaths in California: Study
  Tobacco Myths Continue Half-Century After Landmark U.S. Report
  Quitting Tips for Thursday's Great American Smokeout
  Even Non-Surgical Hospital Patients Often Get Powerful Narcotics: Study
  OxyContin Tops List of Abused Prescription Drugs: Survey
  Drug Abuse By Young Anesthesiologists Is Rare But Sometimes Deadly
  Ecstasy Use on Rise Again Among U.S. Teens: Report
  Study Challenges Myths About Frequent ER Users
  Doctors' Group Urges Tighter Controls on Prescription Painkillers
  Quit-Smoking Products Won't Harm the Heart, Review Finds
  James Bond's Dirty Little Spy Secret: He's an Alcoholic
  Secure Your Prescription Drugs When Hosting Holiday Parties: Experts
  Troubled Launch of 'Obamacare' Tops Health News for 2013
  Counselors Give Smokers Best Chance to Quit: Study
  Substance-Abuse Treatment Often Tough to Find for Medicaid Patients
  Hormone Takes the High Out of Weed, Rodent Study Finds
  Students Smoke Weed Despite Drug Testing at Schools, Study Finds
  Smoking in Pregnancy Tied to Later Nicotine Addiction in Daughters
  Childhood Events Tied to Slow Recovery From Depression Later
  Easier Way for Doctors to Identify Substance Abuse?
  Drug Abusers at Risk for Suicidal Thoughts, Survey Finds
  Synthetic Pot Tied to Surge of Emergency Cases
  U.S. Officials Target Escalating Drug Overdoses
  Nearly 3 Million Americans Living With Hepatitis C
  Groups Push FDA to Revoke Approval of Highly Potent Painkiller
  Study Finds 1 in 3 Tennesseans Uses Narcotic Painkillers Each Year
  Young Binge Drinkers May Not Need Special Counseling From Family Docs
  Rising E-Cigarette Use Tied to More Smoking in Teens
  Repeat Drug Overdoses Raise Risk for Hospitalization, Ventilator Care
  Weed Use Up, Cocaine Use Down, U.S. Report Finds
  Overdoses, Cellphone-Linked Car Crashes Among Top Causes of Fatal Injury in U.S.
  ERs Dispensing More Narcotic Painkillers: Study
  E-Cigarettes Won't Help You Quit, Study Finds
  Smartphone App May Help People Overcome Alcoholism
  Parents' Addiction May Be Linked to Arthritis in Offspring
  FDA Approves Quick-Acting Drug to Reverse Prescription Painkiller ODs
  Keep Prescription Drugs Secure From Teens: Expert
  FDA OKs Quick-Acting Antidote for Prescription Painkiller Overdose
  Study Links Casual Marijuana Use to Changes in Brain
  Pot Smoking May Pose Heart Dangers, Study Suggests
  Legalizing Medical Marijuana Doesn't Raise Teen Pot Use, Study Says
  E-Cigarette Vapor Contains Potentially Harmful Particles: Review
  College Students' Unhealthy Habits Can Mark Their Future
  Scientists Find More Genes Tied to Alcoholism Risk
  Can E-Cigarettes Help You Quit Smoking?
  Sharp Rise in ER Visits Tied to Abuse of Sedative, Study Finds
  Mental Illness Linked to Shortened Life Spans
  Viewing E-Cigarette Use May Keep Smokers From Quitting
  Today's Heroin Abusers Often Middle-Class Suburbanites: Study
  Text Messages May Double Smoker's Odds of Quitting
  Use Prescription Painkillers Safely
  E-Cigarette Sources Soaring, Study Finds
  Timing of Day's First Cigarette May Influence Lung Cancer Risk
  Sharp Rise in 'Meth'-Linked ER Visits in U.S., Study Shows
  Mouse Study Supports Notion of 'Tanning Addiction'
  Kids With ADHD More Likely to Abuse Drugs: Analysis
  Treatment for Heroin Addiction Should Continue After Hospital Discharge: Study
  Many Teens May Get Several Pro-Marijuana Tweets a Day
  Prescriptions for Powerful Painkillers Vary Widely Among States: CDC
  Ecstasy Use Tied to Rare Spinal Blood Vessel Problem in Teen
  Brains of Sex Addicts May Be Wired Like Those of Drug Addicts, Study Finds
  Science Finds Way to Block Booze's Effect -- in Worms
  Those With HIV Living Longer, International Study Finds
  HIV Diagnoses Down in U.S., Except for Young Gay Males: CDC
Adult Diseases and Conditions
  Substance Abuse/Chemical Dependency
Pediatric Diseases and Conditions
  Substance Abuse/Chemical Dependence in Adolescents
  Adolescent (13 to 18 Years)
  Substance Exposure