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NIDA. (2010, August 24). Real Teens Ask: Will Drugs Hurt an Unborn Baby?. Retrieved from

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Sara Bellum
August 24 2010
Photo of a pregnant woman
Image Courtesy of fui

Lots of teens have questions about drugs. Each year, NIDA scientists spend a whole day chatting online with high school students and answering their questions.

At the last Drug Facts Chat Day, “hbishop” asked:

Can a baby die from drugs that a pregnant mom is using?

To answer your question, it's possible. As one NIDA scientist put it, “We know that drugs of abuse can cross the placenta and reach the fetus. So, drugs used by the mother definitely can affect the baby’s health and can even cause long-term harm many years later. That is why doctors recommend that pregnant mothers not smoke or use alcohol or other illicit drugs.”

Anything a pregnant mother puts in her body the baby also takes in. Exposure to different drugs can harm the baby in many different ways. Like—

Smoking during pregnancy can cause slowed fetal growth, decreased birth weights, and even behavioral problems.

Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Children with FAS may be born small; have problems eating, sleeping, seeing, and hearing; and have trouble learning and getting along with others. NO amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.

Using cocaine and marijuana during pregnancy can lead to children having attention, language, and learning problems, as well as behavioral issues. Mothers who use alcohol, tobacco, or any illicit drug are setting their children up for potential lifelong problems or even death. The best thing a pregnant mom can do is talk to her doctor about which foods to eat and vitamins to take to make sure her child gets a healthy start.

Update: For the latest on pregnancy and drug use, read these blog posts.