During pregnancy, everything a pregnant woman eats, drinks, or takes into her body affects her and her unborn baby. The best time to stop substance use is before pregnancy. But pregnancies are often unplanned or unexpected. So women might continue to use substances because they don’t know they’re pregnant. The sooner a pregnant woman can stop, the better. And if she can’t quit, it’s better to cut back. It’s never too late to quit or cut back. Any reduction in substance use during pregnancy is better for both pregnant women and their unborn babies.

How do alcohol and drugs affect pregnancy?


Possible effect on mother

Possible effect on the unborn baby, newborn, and child


  • Lack of certain vitamins
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Low birth weight
  • Intellectual disability
  • Heart problems
  • Learning and behaviour problems
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome


  • Seizures
  • Addiction, withdrawal signs after birth
  • Breathing problems
  • Small size at birth
  • Physical and mental development problems


  • Effects not known
  • Long-term memory problems
  • Learning problems



  • Life-threatening breathing problems
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Coma
  • Low birth weight
  • Problems with how bones form
  • Learning problems



(speed, meth)

  • Low birth weight
  • Heart and lung problems


  • Confusion
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Risk of overdose
  • Withdrawalsigns after birth
  • Learning problems
  • Emotional problems
  • Behaviour problems


Want more information about the specific effects of alcohol and other drug use during pregnancy? Check this out: 

Alberta Health Services: Alcohol and Drug Use During Pregnancy