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If a Pregnant Woman Abuses Drugs, Does It Affect the Fetus?


Updated June 18, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: If a Pregnant Woman Abuses Drugs, Does It Affect the Fetus?
Answer: If you are pregnant and you are using drugs, it is likely your substance use is having a negative effect on your unborn child because the effects of the drug is transferred to the fetus through the placenta. This is true whether the substance is alcohol, nicotine, illegal drugs or prescription medications.

Here are some examples of how the substance abuse of a pregnant woman can effect her unborn child:

Because substance abuse during pregnancy is often accompanied by other factors such as poor nutrition, inadequate prenatal care, stress, and psychiatric comorbidities, it is sometimes difficult to determine if fetal development is impacted by the drug use alone, the other factors or a combination of both, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Back to: Drug Abuse FAQ


National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Frequently Asked Questions." The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction. Accessed February 2014

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