Skip to main content

Health library

Back to health library

Baby on the way? Here's why you have to stop drinking and smoking

Some things you just shouldn't do when you're pregnant. Substance use is high on that list. When it comes to alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, the simple truth is that they're unsafe to consume during pregnancy. 

If you've been thinking that a glass of wine or one cigarette here or there won't hurt your baby, you may want to think again. These substances can jeopardize your pregnancy and put your baby at risk for serious health defects. 

Avoid alcohol entirely

Here's what happens when you drink while you're pregnant: The alcohol in your blood passes through your placenta and umbilical cord to baby. This is bad for baby's developing brains and organs. And it puts them at risk for growth problems, as well as vision, hearing or heart defects. 

There's also the danger of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Babies with FAS can have problems like intellectual disabilities and abnormal facial features.

And no amount of alcohol—even a glass of wine—is known to be safe for a baby in the womb. If you think you might need help avoiding alcohol, talk to your provider. He or she will have ideas to help you cope. 

Ditch the cigarettes for good

There's no type of cigarette and no amount of smoking that's considered safe for you and your baby. Smoking—even light or mild cigarettes—exposes your baby to harmful chemicals like nicotine. And think twice before trying e-cigarettes as a substitute. They also contain chemicals that may hurt your baby. 

Here's what smoking cigarettes puts your baby at risk for:

  • Premature delivery. Babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are premature. They can have more health problems than other children. 
  • Miscarriage or a still birth. 
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The unexplained death of a baby who hasn't turned 1 year old yet. 
  • Birth defects. Mouth defects like cleft lip and cleft palate are more common in babies whose moms smoked during pregnancy.

What's more, if you smoke your baby will face a greater risk of certain health problems as they get older, like asthma and obesity. 

Quitting isn't easy—we totally get that—but smoking is bad for your health even when you aren't pregnant. Knowing that you have a baby on the way is the perfect time to turn over a new leaf and make it stick even after baby has arrived. 

If you're struggling to quit, ask your provider about ways to help you break free of nicotine, and take a look at these resources

Move away from marijuana 

Marijuana is legal now in some states, but that doesn't make it safe for your pregnancy. It's been linked to an increased risk of:

  • Stillbirth. 
  • Having a baby that is small and has a low birth weight. 
  • Problems with attention and behavior during childhood. 

Play it safe and give up marijuana. If you use medical marijuana, ask your provider about other ways to treat your condition.

Find other ways to indulge

Cutting these substances out of your life is one of the first selfless decisions you've made for the good of your child—that deserves a pat on the back, mom-to-be. 

But just because you're pregnant doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy yourself. Try finding other ways to treat yourself. One way to do that is to get good at making tasty mocktails. They're alcohol-free, but ultra-delicious. Try these recipes  tonight and keep experimenting until you find the flavor profile you love. 

Sources: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; March of Dimes Foundation

Reviewed 2/21/2021

Related stories