Heroin and pregnancy

Heroin (also called smack or junk) is a street drug made from poppy plant seeds. It can be a white or brown powder, or it can be a black, sticky goo. Heroin usually is injected with a needle, but it can be smoked or snorted. 

Using heroin can be very harmful, even deadly. It also can cause serious harm to your baby during pregnancy.

Can using heroin harm your health?

Yes. Heroin affects your central nervous system and how your brain works. It can make you feel itchy, sleepy and sick to your stomach. Using heroin can cause serious health problems, including: 

  • Respiratory failure. This is when too little oxygen passes from your lungs into your blood or when your lungs can’t remove carbon dioxide (a gas) from your blood.
  • Heart and lung infections 
  • Infections like HIV or hepatitis (when heroin is injected with a dirty or shared needle)
  • Kidney and liver disease
  • Coma

Can heroin cause problems in pregnancy?

Yes. Using heroin during pregnancy can be dangerous, even deadly. It may cause serious problems, including:

  • Birth defects. These are health conditions that are present at birth. Birth defects change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. They can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops, or in how the body works.
  • Placental abruption. This is a serious condition in which the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus before birth. The placenta supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. Placental abruption can cause very heavy bleeding and can be deadly for both mother and baby.
  • Premature birth. This is birth that happens too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Low birthweight. This is when a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.
  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome (also called NAS). This is a group of conditions a newborn can have if his mother is addicted to drugs during pregnancy. NAS happens when a baby gets addicted to a drug before birth and then goes through drug withdrawal after birth. 
  • Stillbirth. This is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (also SIDS). This is the unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old.

If you’re pregnant and using heroin, don’t stop taking it without getting treatment from your health care provider first. Quitting suddenly (sometimes called cold turkey) can cause severe problems for your baby, including death. Your health care provider or a drug-treatment center can treat you with drugs like methadone or buprenorphine. These drugs can help you gradually reduce your dependence on heroin in a way that’s safe for your baby.

How can you get help to quit using heroin?

Talk to your health care provider. She can help you get treatment to quit.  Or contact:

More information


Last reviewed: January, 2015

Heroin (also called smack or junk) is a street drug made from poppy plant seeds. It can be a white or brown powder, or it can be a black, sticky goo. Heroin usually is injected with a needle, but it can be smoked or snorted. 

Using heroin can be very harmful, even deadly. It also can cause serious harm to your baby during pregnancy.

Can using heroin harm your health?

Yes. Heroin affects your central nervous system and how your brain works. It can make you feel itchy, sleepy and sick to your stomach. Using heroin can cause serious health problems, including: 

  • Respiratory failure. This is when too little oxygen passes from your lungs into your blood or when your lungs can’t remove carbon dioxide (a gas) from your blood.
  • Heart and lung infections 
  • Infections like HIV or hepatitis (when heroin is injected with a dirty or shared needle)
  • Kidney and liver disease
  • Coma

Can heroin cause problems in pregnancy?

Yes. Using heroin during pregnancy can be dangerous, even deadly. It may cause serious problems, including:

  • Birth defects. These are health conditions that are present at birth. Birth defects change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. They can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops, or in how the body works.
  • Placental abruption. This is a serious condition in which the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus before birth. The placenta supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. Placental abruption can cause very heavy bleeding and can be deadly for both mother and baby.
  • Premature birth. This is birth that happens too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Low birthweight. This is when a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.
  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome (also called NAS). This is a group of conditions a newborn can have if his mother is addicted to drugs during pregnancy. NAS happens when a baby gets addicted to a drug before birth and then goes through drug withdrawal after birth. 
  • Stillbirth. This is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (also SIDS). This is the unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old.

If you’re pregnant and using heroin, don’t stop taking it without getting treatment from your health care provider first. Quitting suddenly (sometimes called cold turkey) can cause severe problems for your baby, including death. Your health care provider or a drug-treatment center can treat you with drugs like methadone or buprenorphine. These drugs can help you gradually reduce your dependence on heroin in a way that’s safe for your baby.

How can you get help to quit using heroin?

Talk to your health care provider. She can help you get treatment to quit.  Or contact:

More information


Last reviewed: January, 2015