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Smoking, alcohol and drugs

  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs during pregnancy.
  • These can cause lifelong health problems for your baby.
  • If you need help to quit, tell your health care provider.
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Marijuana and pregnancy

Marijuana (also called pot, weed and cannabis) is a street drug that comes from the hemp plant. Marijuana is the most commonly used street drug in the United States. It is often smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes (also called joints) or cigars (also called blunts). Some people mix it with food. 

Marijuana is illegal in many states. But it’s now legal to use in some states and to treat some illnesses.

Like other street drugs, using marijuana can harm your health. If you’re pregnant, using marijuana can cause problems for your baby.

How does marijuana affect your body?

The chemicals in marijuana can affect how your brain works and make it hard to think clearly. It may change your sense of sight, sound and touch. 

The more marijuana you use, the more likely you are to have these problems:

  • Very fast heart rate
  • Lung problems, including  bronchitis and chronic cough (like a smoker’s cough)
  • Trouble paying attention
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble thinking clearly 
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Clumsiness and poor coordination and balance

Can marijuana cause problems in pregnancy?

Yes. Marijuana can cause problems for before and during pregnancy. 

Before pregnancy, using marijuana can cause fertility problems that make it hard for a couple to get pregnant. Marijuana can affect:

  • A woman’s hormones needed to get pregnant. Hormones are chemicals made by the body.
  • A woman’s menstrual cycle (the process of the ovaries releasing an egg every month)
  • A man’s sperm count (the number of sperm he makes). A man’s sperm fertilizes a woman’s egg to begin a pregnancy. 

During pregnancy, using marijuana can cause problems for your baby, including:

  • 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.
  • Problems with brain development, which may affect a child’s later behavior, memory, problem-solving skills and ability to pay attention
  • 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. 

Can marijuana be used as medicine?

There’s been a lot of debate about allowing marijuana to be used as medicine (also called medicinal or medical marijuana). Research is still being done to test the safety and usefulness of marijuana for treating certain medical conditions, including pain and nausea caused by cancer, HIV/AIDS and other conditions. 

How can you get help to quit using marijuana?

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

For more information

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Mother to Baby

Last reviewed November 2013

Things to avoid

  • Alcohol, in any quantity
  • Smoking and secondhand smoke
  • Herbs or supplements not OK with your doctor
  • Medicines obtained without prescription
Talk with your doctor about all the medicines you take.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I keep taking all my prescriptions during pregnancy?

It depends on the drug. Tell your prenatal care provider about any prescription drugs you take. Some drugs may be harmful to a growing baby. You may need to stop taking a drug or switch to a drug that's safer for your baby. Don't take anyone else's prescription drugs. And don't take any prescription drug unless your prenatal care provider knows about it.

I drank before I knew I was pregnant. Is my baby hurt?

It's unlikely that an occasional drink before you realized you were pregnant will harm your baby. But the baby's brain and other organs begin developing around the third week of pregnancy, so they could be affected by alcohol in these early weeks. The patterns of drinking that place a baby at greatest risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are binge drinking and drinking seven or more drinks per week. However, FASDs can and do occur in babies of women who drink less. Because no amount of alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy, a woman should stop drinking immediately if she even suspects she could be pregnant. And she should not drink alcohol if she is trying to become pregnant.

Is it OK to drink wine in my third trimester?

No amount of alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy. To ensure your baby's health and safety, don't drink alcohol while you're pregnant. Alcohol includes beer, wine, wine coolers and liquor. If you need help to stop drinking alcohol, tell your health care provider.

Have questions?