Learning About Substance Use During and After Pregnancy

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Substance use means drinking alcohol, using drugs, smoking, or vaping. It can also include the misuse of prescription or over-the-counter medicines. It's safest not to use substances if you are planning to become pregnant, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding. Using them can cause problems during and after pregnancy.

Find a doctor or midwife you can trust. It's important to feel safe and respected when talking about substance use.

If you can, bring someone with you to your doctor or midwife visits. This could be a friend or a doula. They can help you talk to your doctor or midwife.

What problems can substance use cause?

Problems caused by substance use are not the same for every pregnancy.

How substance use affects pregnancy depends on:

  • What you use.
  • How often you use.
  • How much you use.
  • When during the pregnancy you use.

Problems caused by substance use can include:

  • Pregnancy loss and early labor.
  • Low birth weight in an infant.
  • Problems with how an infant's heart, lungs, and brain work.
  • Low energy or fussiness in a breastfeeding infant.
  • Lifelong learning, emotional, or physical problems for a child.

How is it treated?

Try to talk openly with your doctor or midwife if you use substances. This can help them better care for you. And if you need help to quit, you can decide on treatment together. It can take courage to talk to your doctor or midwife. In some cases, the law requires them to report substance use during pregnancy. Learn about the laws in your state. And ask for support from someone you trust, such as a counselor, social worker, or family member.

Treatment includes counseling. Joining a support group can also help. Look for a group that is kind and helpful about substance use and pregnancy.

Medicines are often used to treat alcohol or drug use during and after pregnancy. Your doctor can prescribe medicines to help you quit or to help you get through withdrawal symptoms.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter Y988 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Substance Use During and After Pregnancy".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.