Drugs, Alcohol & Smoking

What does smoking and drinking do to a baby?


Babies can develop Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) if the mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy. FASD can affect physical features or it may affect the developing brain and cause long term problems with learning and everyday living.


  • Premature labour (baby born before 37 weeks)
  • Excess bleeding at birth (haemorrhage)
  • Extreme unsettledness and crying post birth
  • Learning difficulties and behavioural problems in the child
  • Lowering the sperm count in males


  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Premature birth
  • Fetal abnormalities
  • Strokes in fetus/baby
  • Small growth

Babies born addicted to drugs are very irritable, and may fit as they are withdrawing from the drugs.

Most will need special care in newborn intensive care nurseries only found in major hospitals.

They can be separated from their mother for a long time if not forever!


Can cause problems with blood vessels in placenta
Decreases lung maturity
Can decrease immunity against disease
Increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

My friend was really drunk a few weeks ago and has just found out she's pregnant. Will her baby be disabled?

A: Around half of all pregnancies are not planned and women may not know they are pregnant until about the 6th week of the pregnancy or later. Babies are most vulnerable to alcohol in the early weeks of pregnancy, with the highest risk being between 2 and 8 weeks. Binge drinking during that time can cause problems for the baby, especially if other drugs are also used. Unless a woman is abusing alcohol, exposure to alcohol alone is usually not thought to be a reason for terminating pregnancies.

As we do not know what a safe level of alcohol consumption is during pregnancy, less alcohol is better, but NO ALCOHOL = NO RISK.

Pregnancy and alcohol do not mix. Alcohol can affect an unborn child for life.

Alcohol can cross the placenta to an unborn baby and affect the baby's health and development.

The alcohol will reach the unborn baby very quickly and its blood alcohol level will be the same as the mums.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) refers to a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. Problems that may occur in babies exposed to alcohol before birth include low birth weight, distinctive facial features, heart defects, behavioural problems and intellectual disability. Babies severely affected by FASD are at risk of dying before they are born.

Alcohol can harm a baby at any stage during the pregnancy.

The safest choice is not to drink any alcohol at all during pregnancy or if there is a chance of pregnancy occurring.

My boyfriend's mates come around and smoke ciggs and weed. I know this is bad for my baby, how do I tell him to make them leave?

A: You will need to see if he understands about the harmful effects of smoking and drugs on his unborn child. See above.

Once he is familiar with this he will need to 'step up' and protect his family. This may simply mean he suggests they all go to someone else's house from now on. He may choose to go with them sometimes but if it's more frequent than you are happy with you will need to have another discussion about supportive healthy relationships. For further supportive information see the links below.

My friend takes 'ice' and she's pregnant. Will her baby be an addict?

A: When a woman is struggling with drug addiction during pregnancy, that drug used affects more than just her it affects her fetus as well. The drugs can also have devastating effects on the child when he or she is born. Drug addiction and pregnancy should be treated as a very serious issue.

A mother taking illegal drugs during pregnancy increases her risk for the following:

  • Anaemia (low number of or poor quality red blood cells)
  • Blood and heart infections
  • Skin infections
  • Hepatitis
  • Other infectious diseases

She is also at greater risk for sexually transmitted infections.

Most drugs cross the placenta the organ that provides nourishment to the baby. Some can cause direct toxic, or poisonous effects and create a child who is born with a drug addiction. During pregnancy, a woman needs to take active steps to combat her drug addiction, if not for herself, but for the good of her unborn child. While most drugs don't necessarily cause deformities, what they can do is stunt the growth of the child leading to low birth weight and having a baby born already addicted to drugs.

Once that child takes his or her first breath, they begin the painful process of withdrawing from drugs. This puts stress on the baby's organs and provides for a very unhappy life. As much pain as an adult goes through during withdrawal, the pain is compounded for a helpless baby.