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Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

5 Drugs to avoid in pregnancy

Dr. Akin-Onitolo A.



It is essential to watch what you take during your pregnancy because all of it is shared with your baby – what you eat, what you drink, what you inhale. So abusing drugs or alcohol, or smoking, even before getting pregnant can affect your baby. We made a list of drug don’ts for pregnant mothers wanting the best for their unborn babies:



1. Don’t smoke. The active substance in cigarettes called nicotine passes to your baby as well as cancer-causing substances. Because of this, your baby may develop cancer. Also, smoking prevents your baby from receiving adequate nourishment and it may be born dead or before the time is right. Remember that smoking can also be passively done, like when you are in close quarters where someone else is smoking, or spend a considerable amount of time in a room where smoking has taken place. Inhaling this smoke, either as second-hand or third-hand can still affect your baby


2. Don’t use alcohol. Alcohol is so dangerous because it can affect your pregnancy at any stage and cause lifelong problems for your baby. It can affect your child’s performance at school, behaviour and may cause foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). This may give your baby an unusual look, behavioural problems, and may make your baby dependent
3. Don’t use illegal drugs/club drugs/street drugs
What are these drugs? 
• Heroin
• Cocaine/Crack/Coke
• Marijuana/Weed/Igbo
• Club drugs: Ecstasy, Methamphetamine, LSD, PCP, Rophynol
• Prescription drugs such as Opioids (Methadone, Morphine, Codeine, Oxycodone, Fentanyl/China white, and Black tar)

How can they affect your baby?
First, these drugs can cause infertility because of their association with risky behaviours like unprotected sex and subsequent sexually transmitted diseases. They also put your baby and you at risk of preterm labour, miscarriage and stillbirth. Preterm labour is bad for babies because it is too early and they may not be fully developed to withstand the outside environment. These drugs can cause physical defects in your baby and can make your baby underweight because of poor nutrition. Your baby may also be born with a head size that is smaller than normal and may signify poor brain development.


After delivery, your baby may even experience withdrawal. Withdrawal occurs when you suddenly stop or reduce the amount of the drug used which can cause symptoms ranging from mild anxiousness to seizures and hallucinations (seeing/ feeling/ hearing/ smelling something that is not actually there). It can be very upsetting and if not quickly picked up, can have disastrous effects on your baby. Heart defects, infections like hepatitis C, HIV are also possible consequences for your baby.
Later on, your baby may have learning and behavioural problems, delayed development, and may experience sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) which is sudden unexplained death in a child while sleeping.


How can you stop?
The best thing to do is to avoid them. If you already use them, stopping is not as easy especially for Heroin and Opioids because of their terrifying withdrawal symptoms. Stopping them suddenly can also cause problems for your baby so discuss with your healthcare provider first. There are drugs used to manage these symptoms and gradually make you less dependent on them. This way, you and your baby will be safe.

The major difficulty with using street drugs is that they are almost always used with other substances like cigarettes or alcohol, and cause you not to eat well or even increase your chance of contacting an STD. The combination of these is enough to cause problems during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, and you smoke (or you are exposed to smoke), take alcohol or use any of these drugs, it is necessary that you get help. Speak with your healthcare provider today.


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Dr. Akin-onitolo A. is a graduate of the University of Lagos whose mission is to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) using health promotion and improved health literacy. She is an MDCN (Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria) certified doctor who had her elective at King's College London. Hugely interested in travel, meeting people and generally being creative, reading and writing fiction are a few hobbies you could find her engaged in during her spare time. Catch up with her on Twitter @Akinonitolo and Instagram @t_onitolo