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Opioid & Substance Misuse


Drinking alcohol at any time during your pregnancy can cause serious health problems for your baby. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy; Therefore, it is safer to avoid it altogether.

Drinking alcohol is associated with many health consequences for your baby:

  • Premature birth
  • Poor fetal growth, especially with brain development
  • Birth defects such as heart, hearing or vision impairments
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs)
  • Low birthweight
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth



  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) refers to an assortment of conditions due to a mother who drank during pregnancy. Symptoms include:
    • Low body weight
    • Hyperactive behavior
    • Poor memory, difficulty with attention
    • Learning disabilities
    • Speech and language delays
    • Vision and hearing problems
    • Heart, kidney, or bone problems
  • There is no cure for FASDs, however early intervention treatment services can help to improve your child’s development.



  • Seek help if you can’t stop drinking and trying to get pregnant or are pregnant. Visit to find Drug and Alcohol Detox Rehabilitation Centers for Pregnant Women in Illinois. Call 800-304-2219 to get in contact with a counselor to find the best center for you.


Marijuana use during pregnancy has similar effects as smoking during pregnancy. However, more research is needed on how marijuana affects the development of the infant.

Risk factors

  • Low birth weight
  • Stillbirth
  • Preterm birth
  • Long-term rain development issues
  • Autism
  • Learning delays


Marijuana during breastfeeding 

  • You may take precautions in smoking away from your child, however,  THC is stored in fat and released through the breast milk
  • There is limited data on the effects on your baby, however, to maintain optimal health the mother should avoid any potentially harmful substances.


The chemicals in tobacco can pass through the placenta and umbilical cord and into the baby. This can decrease the amount of oxygen the baby gets to grow

Smoking during pregnancy  

  • Compared to nonsmokers you are more likely to have:
    • Preterm labor
    • Ectopic pregnancy
    • Bleeding from vagina
    • Placenta complications
      •  the placenta provides the baby with food and oxygen
  • Smoking during pregnancy also affects the baby:
  • Born prematurely: before 37 weeks
  • Birth defect
  • Low birthweight
  • Miscarriage/stillbirth
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)


Secondhand Smoke

  • Secondhand smoke is when someone else around you is smoking a cigarette, cigar, pipe or another tobacco product and you inhale the smoke. Secondhand smoke can still affect the pregnancy. Babies who inhale smoke are more likely to develop
  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Ear infections
  • Pneumonia

Thirdhand Smoke

  • Thirdhand smoke is the stench or residue that is left behind after someone smokes. Babies exposed to these chemicals by inhaling or touching the residue can cause serious health problems.
  • E-cigarettes contains nicotine and other chemicals that can harm you and the baby
  • Inhaling the vapor from someone else’s e-cigarette can also be harmful

Quitting smoking

  • Quitting smoking is difficult, however pregnancy can be the right time to but having a plan can make it easier. Here are some tips to help stop smoking
    • Make a list of the benefits of quitting for you and your baby. Refer to this list when you have an urge to smoke
    • Wash your clothes, car and any place that smells like tobacco
    • Have a strong support system, call these people when you have an urge.
    • Set a quit date within the next week or two


Opioid use during pregnancy can be prescribed, misused, illicit or opioids used as medication-assisted treatment. Even though opioids are prescribed to treat pain there are still possible risks that pregnant women should be aware of. The CDC reported, 7% of women were using prescription opioid pain relievers during pregnancy in 2019. Of those 7% 1 in 5 reported misuse of the pain relievers.

Risk Factors

  • Opioid use during pregnancy has many health effects for the mother and baby:
  • Maternal death
  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)
  • Poor fetal growth
  • Preterm labor
  • Birth defects
  • Stillbirth

Pregnancy and Opioid Use

  • Talk to your prenatal care provider and make them aware of what you are taking. Ask about safer alternatives during pregnancy.
  • Don’t stop taking the opioids until you talk with your prenatal care provider. Quitting abruptly can cause severe withdrawal symptoms that can harm you and your baby.
  • Make sure your provider knows that your delivery plan includes a baby with NAS.
  • If you are addicted to opioids get help right away.
  • For more information on opioid use during pregnancy and treatments CDC Opioid & Pregnancy.
  • The Illinois Department of Public Health has extensive opioid treatment centers categorized by county. Visit, IDPH- Treatment Resources. The list services pregnant women with Medicaid. Find your county and the best center for you.