Tobacco, alcohol, and drugs

Essential information to rememberIt’s not always easy to quit smoking, drinking, or using drugs.

Ask for advice or help from a health professional.

During your pregnancy, your health professional will ask you whether you smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs. You may feel guilty or uncomfortable, or worry about being judged if you reply in the affirmative. Rest assured, the only purpose of these questions is to give you an opportunity to

  • Get the information you need
  • Talk about concerns you may have about the impacts of these habits on your health and that of your unborn baby
  • Seek help if you want to quit
  • Be referred to specialists if you need additional help


Pregnant women are advised not to smoke cigarettes or expose themselves to second-hand smoke (from other smokers), as there is a real danger for the health of the fetus, the baby, and the mom.

Smoking interferes with the development of the fetus and can impact the pregnancy in the following ways:

  • It increases the risk of placental abruption (detachment of the placenta), premature rupture of the amniotic sac, and premature birth.
  • It can slow fetal growth and result in lower birth weight.
  • It increases the risk of having a stillborn baby or a baby who dies in the days following birth.
  • It also increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome..

Information to comfort you and boost your confidenceIt’s never too late to quit smoking. Your baby will benefit, regardless of when during your pregnancy you actually quit.

Pregnancy is an ideal time to quit smoking. Friends and family who smoke can help you by not smoking around you. This is also a good time for them to quit smoking too!

For most smokers, smoking is an addiction that can be hard to kick. A telephone helpline, website, and numerous quit-smoking centres offer their services free of charge to the public. To reach the telephone helpline and to find the center nearest you:



Pregnant women are advised to avoid drinking alcohol.

Information to which you should pay special attentionThe placenta does not filter alcohol: alcohol passes directly from the mother’s blood to the baby’s blood through the placenta.

The more alcohol you drink, the greater the potential harm to your baby. Binge drinking and regular consumption of alcohol are especially harmful to your baby. The exact effects of occasional consumption of small amounts of alcohol are not known.

The effect of alcohol on the baby is the same, regardless of the type of drink—beer, wine, or spirits.

Alcohol can have numerous harmful effects on pregnancy: it can cause miscarriage, or stillborn or premature birth. Alcohol also increases the risk of slow growth and birth defects in babies.

Essential information to rememberTake advantage of your pregnancy to discover non-alcoholic drinks or cocktails that can be just as tasty!

Photo: iStockphoto

The brain is the organ most sensitive to alcohol, and it develops throughout pregnancy. Alcohol can cause brain damage, which can result in the child developing learning, memory, attention, problem-solving, and behavioural problems.

Like many women, you may have consumed alcohol in the early days of your pregnancy before you knew you were pregnant. If you have concerns, you can talk to your health professional or call the Motherisk helpline for advice (in English and French) at 1-877-327-4636.


Take advantage or your pregnancy to discover non-alcoholic drinks or cocktails that can be just as tasty!

  • Sparkling fruit-based drinks (apple, peach, or other)
  • Exotic fruit juice diluted with sparkling mineral water, ginger ale, or lime soda
  • Fresh or frozen fruit juice
  • A slice of lemon, orange, or melon to garnish
  • Frozen strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries as ice cubes

Cannabis and other drugs

Pregnant women are advised to avoid taking drugs and exposing themselves to second-hand drug smoke.

The effects of drugs on the unborn baby depend on three factors: the type of drug used, the amount consumed, and the moment the drugs are consumed.

Babies whose mothers took drugs during pregnancy can suffer withdrawal symptoms at birth. And since drugs bought on the street are illegal, there is no way to know or check exactly what is in them. This increases the risks associated with the use of these drugs.

The exact effects of cannabis consumption (marijuana and other cannabis by-products) during pregnancy are still not well understood, but are a matter of concern. Cannabis may interfere with the development of the fetus and, later on, the child. What’s more, since cannabis is a drug that is usually smoked, it may have the same effects as tobacco on the fetus. It is therefore recommended that pregnant women not consume cannabis during pregnancy.

Cocaine can cause bleeding or placental detachment in pregnant women, which can, in turn, lead to the death of the fetus or premature birth.

Got questions or concerns? Need help?

If you have questions or concerns about your consumption of alcohol or drugs or you need help to quit, you can

  • Talk about it with a health professional
  • Call the Drugs, Help and Referral 24/7 hotline at 514-527-2626 or 1-800-265-2626, or go to;
  • Call free of charge Motherisk, an organization that answers queries from the public and health professionals on the effects of alcohol and drugs during pregnancy and breast-feeding: 1-877-327-4636,

For information on the problems caused by foetal alcohol spectrum disorders, you can contact

An organization dedicated to the prevention of fetal alcohol syndrome.
418-830-1888 / 418-800-1235 (in French only)

Sudden infant death syndrome: The unexplainable sudden death of an apparently healthy newborn under the age of one.