Taking drugs in pregnancy

When you’re pregnant, taking drugs can seriously affect you and your baby’s health. Sometimes this can be lifelong.

Having a baby can be a positive reason to make changes to your life.

The effect on your baby

Taking illegal drugs when you’re pregnant can put your baby’s health at serious risk. It increases the risk they'll be stillborn or will die in the first few weeks and months of life.

These are difficult things to imagine happening but are real risks if you take drugs.

Your baby's also more likely to:

  • be born early
  • be underweight
  • have feeding and breathing problems
  • get infections

These health problems can sometimes last for many years.

If you smoke and drink alcohol as well, that can lead to more complications with your pregnancy, and the health of your baby.

More about smoking in pregnancy and drinking alcohol in pregnancy

Prescribed medicines

You should also speak to your GP, midwife or a drug support service if you’re regularly taking prescribed medicines. Stopping your medication suddenly could be harmful for you and your baby.

More about medicines in pregnancy

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)

Some prescribed or illegal drugs that can cause physical dependency may pass through the placenta and be absorbed by your baby.

Following delivery your baby may show signs of physical withdrawal known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

Some of these babies may need specialist care after birth and medical treatment to help them withdraw.

If you have any questions about NAS you should speak to your midwife.

Getting support

If you’re taking illegal drugs and you want to stop or cut down, you can get help and support from your midwife and your local drug support service.

If you’re taking any drugs, talk to your midwife or GP as soon as you can after finding out you’re pregnant.

They can help you understand the risks and support you to cut down or stop taking drugs.

Drug support services

Support services are there to help you. They’re private and confidential and the staff who work there will listen to you and support you without judging you.

If you’re already being supported by a specialist drug support service, tell them that you’re pregnant as soon as you know.

Find a drug support service in your area

If someone close to you is a drug user

Your partner, your baby’s dad or someone close to you might be the one taking drugs. That can be worrying and make the future feel uncertain, stressful and challenging.

Your partner or anyone close to you can also get direct support.

Talk to your midwife or GP if you’re worried about someone or think they need help.

Translations and alternative formats of this information are available from Public Health Scotland.

Find local drugs services