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Insights in reproductive health research and practice from CompassCare's medical team.

What If I’ve Been Using Drugs?

The illicit use of drugs – prescription, over-the-counter or illegal – during pregnancy can greatly affect the health of both the fetus and the mother.  If you’ve been using drugs and are pregnant, contact your health care provider right away.

Maternal Risks

  • Studies show that women who use illegal drugs such as heroine, cocaine or marijuana during pregnancy are more likely to have sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis and HIV.  STD’s pose serious risks to the mother, including damage to reproductive organs, compromised future fertility, cancers, and even death.
  • Women who use street drugs are also more likely to have psychiatric and emotional disorders, pregnancy-related bleeding, and other pregnancy complications.1
  • Women who smoke are twice as likely to experience premature rupture of membranes (water breaks early), placental abruption, and placenta previa during pregnancy.2

Fetal Risks

  • In-utero drug exposure can result in delayed fetal development, nutritional deficiencies, hypertension, life-threatening vascular issues and spontaneous abortion.3
  • Infants who are born to women who abuse drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, are at a greater risk for withdrawal symptoms, delayed social development, congenital malformations, SIDS,4 and FAS.5
  • Because of the potential consequences to the unborn, 15 states actually consider substance abuse during pregnancy child abuse.6

If you’re pregnant and concerned about your use of drugs, contact us for a free consultation.


1 Guttmacher Institute. (2011). Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. Volume 34, Number 4, July/August 2002. Prenatal Cocaine and Opiate Use Are Linked to a Wide Variety of Health Hazards. Retrieved from: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3421802.html

2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011).  Tobacco Use and Pregnancy. What do we know about tobacco use and pregnancy? Retrieved from:  http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/tobaccousepregnancy/

3 Archives of Women’s Mental Health. (1999). Volume 2, Number 2, 57-65, DOI: 10.1007/s007370050037. Pregnancy and substance abuse. Review Article abstract.  G. Fischer, M. Bitschnau, A. Peternell, H. Eder and A. Topitz.  Retrieved from:  http://www.springerlink.com/content/h9drvm1c9t3dw4ym/

4 Mayo Clinic. (2011). Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); Risk Factors.  Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sudden-infant-death-syndrome/DS00145/DSECTION=risk-factors

5 Mayo Clinic. (2011). Fetal alcohol syndrome.  Retrieved from:  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fetal-alcohol-syndrome/DS00184

6 Guttmacher Institute. (2011). State Policies in Brief. Substance Abuse During Pregnancy.  Retrieved from: http://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/spibs/spib_SADP.pdf

Categories: Pregnancy , Risks