The effects of alcohol on a person can vary from person to person.
Any alcohol going into a pregnant woman’s bloodstream also goes into her baby’s system. Research shows that when you are thinking of getting pregnant, during your pregnancy and while you are breastfeeding, the best advice is “no alcohol leads to no risk”.
Therefore, we recommend that you should not drink any alcohol during this time.
If you smoke and you are trying to get pregnant or you are pregnant already, you should try to give up. Smoking during pregnancy can seriously affect both your own health and your baby’s development. If you smoke when pregnant you have an increased risk of miscarriage and a higher risk of the placenta coming away from your womb before the baby is born, which can cause premature birth or stillbirth. Babies born to women who smoke have a lower birth weight and more of these babies die from cot death. The sooner you stop smoking the better and it is never too late. Even stopping in the last few weeks of pregnancy can still benefit you and your baby. There are lots of groups and organisations that can help support you to stop smoking.
Some medicines, including painkillers, can harm your baby’s health.
As a general rule you should:
- assume that all medicines are dangerous until a doctor or pharmacist can tell you they are safe;
- make sure your doctor or dentist knows you are pregnant before they prescribe anything or give you any treatment; and
- talk to your doctor at the first possible moment if you take regular medication.
However, remember that it is safer to take some medicines, for example if you have epilepsy or diabetes, than to leave the illness untreated.
Recreational Drug Use
All illegal drugs, such as heroin, cannabis and cocaine, are dangerous for a pregnant woman. For your own health and the health of your baby, you should not take any of them from the time you first plan to become pregnant or learn that you are pregnant. For a pregnant woman, there are more risks linked to illegal drug taking. Firstly, drugs may harm your own health, and can affect your ability to support the pregnancy. Secondly, some drugs can directly affect the development of your baby in the womb.
These drugs go through the placenta – the organ that connects the baby to its mother in the womb – and reach the baby. The baby becomes addicted along with the mother. At birth, the baby is still dependent on the drug. Because the baby is no longer getting the drug after birth, they can have symptoms of withdrawal such as tremors, sleeplessness, muscle spasms, and sucking difficulties. You can prevent this condition by not taking any drugs during your pregnancy. Talk about all drug use with your midwife and doctor.