Alcohol and drug use

Drinking alcohol while pregnant and with a new baby

Medical experts are still undecided exactly how much – if any – alcohol is completely safe for you to have while you’re pregnant, so the safest approach is not to drink at all. Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby, and the more you drink, the greater the risk.

How does alcohol affect my unborn baby?

Drinking heavily throughout pregnancy can cause your baby to develop a serious condition called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and other difficulties.

Read more on drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Drinking with a newborn baby is particularly risky at night for both parents. Parents are often unable to be as attentive to their infant and they can also fall asleep holding the baby which leaves them at greater risk of suffocation. The Lullaby Trust has good information on safe sleep.

Illegal drugs

Using illegal or street drugs during pregnancy, including cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin, can have a potentially serious effect on your unborn baby. Medical advice is clear that all drug use should be stopped during pregnancy.

Depending on the level of drug use there will be different routes you may take. For example, if you are using drugs very rarely, you may find it easy to stop, whilst where drugs are used more regularly or for socialising, stopping may be harder.

If you or your partner regularly use drugs or worry you may have developed a dependency, it is important to tackle this now you’re pregnant. You can speak to a professional to find out the best way to go about it. This is important as in some cases, stopping without medical support can cause withdrawal problems or other side effects.

Keeping drugs (or medicines) in the home where children live also risks the children finding them and mistaking them for sweets. This can be dangerous and have serious consequences for their health.

What if I took drugs before I knew I was pregnant?

If you took a drug without realising when you were pregnant on a one-off occasion, try not to worry – it’s very unlikely to have affected your baby.

However, if illegal drugs are part of your life, getting help can really improve the outlook for you and your baby.

Read more on drug use during pregnancy.

Getting help

If you use drugs, it is important to seek help straight away so you can get the right advice and support.

You can get help from:
Your GP or maternity team
Hackney Recovery Service
Young Hackney Substance Misuse Service for under 25s
Square Mile Health (alcohol & drug services in the City)
FRANK helpline – 24 hours a day 0300 123 6600

Health professionals will not judge you and can help you access a wide range of other services, such as antenatal and family support.

For more information about what drug treatment entails, see the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse website.

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