Health and Safety
Using Street Drugs
Illegal drugs and street drugs can be harmful for you and for your developing baby during pregnancy. Like alcohol, these drugs pass through the placenta to the baby. If you use street drugs during pregnancy, you increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and preterm delivery. You may also eat poorly, not get enough sleep, and be at risk for diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. Mothers who continue to use street drugs are usually advised not to breastfeed.
If you find it hard to stop using street drugs, there are specialized services available to help. If you can’t stop drug use, there are ways to reduce harm to you and your baby. There are support services in your community including:
- health care providers
- street nurses and clinics
- pregnancy outreach programs
Services can be found by calling the Alcohol and Drug Information and Referral Line, toll‑free at 1‑800‑663‑1441.
Use of marijuana can affect your energy, judgment, and motivation at this important time. Using marijuana during pregnancy can increase your risk of giving birth to your baby prematurely, and it can affect your baby’s growth and long‑term health.
Cocaine and Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth)
Using stimulants, such as cocaine and crystal meth, can be very harmful to your overall health, affecting your heart rate, energy, sleeping patterns, memory, and mental health. If used during pregnancy, they can cause very serious health concerns for both you and your baby, as well as put your baby at risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Using heroin in pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. It is important to get help during pregnancy to help you slowly decrease your use so your baby does not have withdrawal symptoms, even before it is born. After the withdrawal period, children whose mothers used heroin during pregnancy may do well in the long term, if they were not exposed to other risks and if they are raised in a positive environment. If you are using needles to inject the heroin and don’t use clean needles each time, you are also at risk for illnesses such as HIV and hepatitis.
Solvents (such as glue, gasoline, paint thinner and cleaning fluids) and aerosols (such as compressed gases from hairspray and spray paint cans) can be very risky for your health when breathed in. In pregnancy they can affect your blood pressure and increase the risk of miscarriage. Babies of mothers who use solvents in pregnancy are at risk for a range of physical birth defects. There is also concern that babies born to mothers who use inhalants, or come into contact with them a lot in pregnancy, may be at risk for long lasting mental health and behaviour problems similar to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
Motherisk is a Canadian organization that provides specific support for pregnant and breastfeeding women. To reach their Alcohol and Substance Use Helpline, dial toll‑free 1‑877‑327‑4636.
For more information about their services, visit the Motherisk website.