Illegal drugs - taboo in pregnancy?

If you consume illegal drugs you could feeling very isolated at times. But you are not alone - drug use is broadening than you might think. About every fourth adult between the ages of 18-64 has already come into contact with drugs (BMG 13)

Drugs are definitely taboo in pregnancy!

BabyCenter would like to explain the effects of various drugs on your unborn child. The more you know about it, the better you understand how important it is not to use drugs. If you have difficulty stopping the use of drugs, contact your doctor or midwife and ask for help. This is an important step in enabling your baby to have a healthy future. (NICE 2010)

Is it dangerous to use drugs during pregnancy?

Some drugs are more dangerous than others. However, it is certain that all drugs harm you and your unborn child in some way. Even small amounts can cause great damage.

The time when you learn that you are pregnant is the ideal way to change your life so that your baby gets the best possible start in life. When a parent consumes drugs, the child's life is affected by it throughout his life. (ACMD 2012)

What effects do drugs have on my baby?

Almost all drugs reach your baby across the placenta and can do more or less harm to it. (Behnke et al 2013)

In early pregnancy, developmental disorders can progress to miscarriage.

At a later stage of pregnancy, drug use can trigger premature labor and premature birth. Because the drug can reduce the baby's nutrition and oxygenation, the baby may be much more underdeveloped at birth than it normally would be. The placenta can no longer operate to its full extent and there is a detachment of the placenta from the uterine wall. The resulting bleeding can be life-threatening for you and your child.

When your baby is born, she or she may have severe or even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms and must be hospitalized. (Hamdan 2012)

What if I took drugs without knowing that I was pregnant?

If your drug use has been a one-off, discuss with your doctor if further investigation is needed. In case of repeated or regular use, you should definitely consult a doctor, because the cessation must be under medical supervision and may be accompanied by a substitute drug (methadone).

Which drugs have what effect?

Cannabis (marijuana)

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug (Home Office 2012). Regular use of cannabis during pregnancy can lead to later development and learning problems for your baby. These babies are more restless and scared than other children. (Behnke et al 2013)

Smoked marijuana also carries the same risks as smoking in general - premature labor, lower birth weight and other complications. Smoking can also be a cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. (CDC 2013)

Amphetamines (Speed ​​and Crystal Meth) If you consume Speed ​​or Crystal Meth, you should definitely stop taking it before pregnancy. If you are already pregnant, be sure to seek medical help in the form of accompanied withdrawal. Sudden drug withdrawal can cause major health problems for you and your unborn baby.

Speed ​​and Crystal Meth hinder the growth of your fetus and increase the likelihood of miscarriage, premature birth or stillbirth.

  • Decreased oxygen and food intake results in placental deficiency
  • The placenta dissolves prematurely from the uterine wall (Abruptio Placentae) and can cause life-threatening bleeding for you and your child.
  • Babies may be underdeveloped and have abnormalities in brain development.
(Hudak et al 2012)


Consuming ecstasy can cause growth disorders and malformations, and affect your baby's motor development (coordination and exercise). (Singer 2012)

Cocaine and Crack Cocaine

The use of cocaine or crack cocaine can cause a miscarriage in early pregnancy.

Later in pregnancy, he may experience premature birth or premature detachment of the placenta with life-threatening bleeding.

Cocaine use can lead to underdevelopment of the baby and subsequent disruption in learning and behavioral development. (Behnke et al 2013)

Heroin and Strong Painkillers

Heroin has a negative impact on baby development in many ways. The same applies to strong analgesics such. B. morphine during pregnancy. They cause a quick dependency that you may not notice right away.

Heroin can cause growth inhibition, premature birth or stillbirth - around 50% of heroin-dependent mothers give birth to their child too soon.

Heroin addicted women should switch to methadone immediately in case of pregnancy. This replacement drug is given at regular intervals, keeping it in the bloodstream at a level that causes less problems for mother and baby than heroin. With professional help, a woman can manage to slowly reduce the amounts she consumes. Women are advised not to use the drug altogether, as this can lead to stress symptoms and withdrawal symptoms in the developing baby and thus cause damage.This can also cause premature labor or even lead to stillbirth.

Babies who were exposed to heroin or methadone before birth also have extreme withdrawal symptoms after birth and often need to be treated for weeks. Symptoms include respiratory distress, fever, seizures, irritability, restlessness, difficulty in drinking and diarrhea. The baby must be treated professionally in any case! (Behnke et al 2013, Hidak 2012)

Where can I get help?

If you are using drugs illegally, it is very important to contact a doctor or midwife when you are pregnant. Do not be afraid to talk about your addiction - the more detailed the better. This is the best way to help you and prove that you want the best for your baby. Doctors and midwives are trained to do so and can refer you to special experts.

These organizations also provide support:

No power to the drugs

Caritas addiction counseling

Addiction counseling of the German Red Cross


ACMD. 2012. AMCD inquiry: Hidden harm 'report on children of drug users . Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. www. gov. [PDF file, January 2014]

ACMD. 2013. ACMD consideration on tramadol . www. gov. uk. [PDF file, January 2014]

Behnke M, Smith VC et al. 2013. Prenatal substance abuse: short-term and long-term effects on the exposed fetus. Pediatrics 131 (3): e1009-24. www. pediatrics. aappublications. org [as of January 2014]

CDC. 2013. Tobacco use and pregnancy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Drug and Addiction Report 2013, 4, Illegal Drugs, - // www. drug-commissioned. de [PDF file, January 2014]

Hamdan A. 2012. Neonatal abstinence syndrome. In: Medscape reference, ed. T Rosenkrantz,. www. emedicine. com [as of January 2014]

Hudak ML, Tan RC et al. 2012. Neonatal drug withdrawal. Pediatrics 129 (2): e540-60 www. pediatrics. aappublications. org [as of January 2014]

Home Office. 2012. Drug misuse declared: findings from the 2011 to 2012 Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) (second edition). Section 2. 2: Extent and trends in illicit drug use among young people aged 16 to 24. www. gov. uk [as of January 2014]

NICE. 2010. Pregnancy and complex social factors . National Institute of Clinical Excellence. Clinical guideline 110. www. nice. org. [PDF file, January 2014]

Nguyen D, Smith LM, Lagasse LL, et al. 2010. Intrauterine growth of infants exposed to prenatal methamphetamine: results from the infant development, environment, and lifestyle study. J Pediatr 2010; 157 (2): 337-9. www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov [January 2014]

Singer LT, Moore DG, Fulton S et al. 2012. Neurobehavioral outcomes of infants exposed to MDMA (ecstasy) and other recreational drugs during pregnancy. Neurotoxic Teratol 34 (3): 303-10.www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov [January 2014]

UKTIS. 2010. Use of heroin in pregnancy . UK Teratology Information Service. www. uktis. org [PDF file as of January 2014]

UKTIS. 2011a. Use of MDMA (ecstasy) in pregnancy . UK Teratology Information Service. www. uktis. org [PDF file as of January 2014]

UKTIS. 2011b. Use of cocaine in pregnancy . UK Teratology Information Service. www. uktis. org [PDF file as of January 2014]

UKTIS. 2012. Use of amfetamines in pregnancy . UK Teratology Information Service. www. uktis. org [PDF file as of January 2014]

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