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Medications, Substances & Stimulants Printer Friendly Version Printer Friendly Version Share

What you should know about potential risks during your pregnancy

What you should know about potential risks during your pregnancyYour baby can be affected by medications, substances and stimulants you take during pregnancy – and some can affect your baby even after birth.

Studies show the following substances can affect your baby during AND after birth:

  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Certain prescription drugs
  • Illegal drugs
  • Alcohol

Caffeine is a stimulant that affects your baby just like it affects you. After birth, if you drank a lot of caffeinated beverages, like coffee or soda, your baby may react just like you do when you stop drinking caffeine. Babies exposed to moderate to high levels of caffeine can experience tremors, increased heart rate, loose stools, intense fussiness and crying that cannot be calmed. Experts recommend that pregnant women should not consume more than the caffeine in one cup of coffee (or 200 milligrams) a day while pregnant.

Amounts of Caffeine in common drinks:
Coffee, regular 8 oz 102-200 mg
Starbucks coffee 16 oz 330 mg
Starbucks latte 16 oz 150 mg
Black tea 8 oz 40-120 mg
Green tea 8 oz 30-50 mg
Coke 12 oz 35 mg
Mountain Dew 12 oz 54 mg
Red Bull 8.3 oz 80 mg
SoBe No Fear 8 oz 83 mg

Nicotine is the addicting drug in tobacco smoke. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals that can reach your baby when you smoke during pregnancy. Nicotine and carbon monoxide reduce oxygen to your unborn baby, causing low birth weight and possible pre-term labor or death. Nicotine concentrates in your unborn baby’s blood and amniotic fluid. It also concentrates in your breast milk. After birth, your baby may exhibit symptoms of withdrawal that include tremors, intense fussiness and inconsolable crying.

Alcohol use during pregnancy can also cause problems in the baby. Although babies exposed to alcohol do not commonly show signs of withdrawal, they can develop lifelong problems associated with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Women can prevent FAS and other problems related to alcohol use by not drinking when they are pregnant or might get pregnant.

Prescription drugs commonly used to manage anxiety and sleep disorders, including Xanax and Valium, as well as pain killers also affect your baby after birth. Beware of the following opiates – drugs commonly prescribed for pain that pose dangers to your baby: codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), methadone, buprenorphine (Subutex, Suboxone), and oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet).

Illegal drugs of any kind – especially heroin, methadone, marijuana, ecstasy and methamphetamines – are very harmful to your baby before AND after birth.

What happens to my baby if he/she was exposed to prescription or illegal drugs during pregnancy?
After they are born, babies exposed to long-term drug use, abuse, combinations of illegal drugs and/or certain prescription drugs during pregnancy often develop withdrawal symptoms known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

What are the symptoms of NAS?
Babies born with NAS may show symptoms of withdrawal within 24 hours of being born, or in the case of certain drugs, such as methadone or other opiates, may develop withdrawal symptoms one to four weeks later.

Symptoms include:

  • Intense fussiness and crying
  • Restlessness/inability to sleep for long periods
  • Tremors and/or jitteriness
  • Poor feeding and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea and diaper rash

What happens if my baby shows signs of NAS?
If your baby shows signs of withdrawal, he/she will be transferred to a specialized unit, where doctors and nurses can monitor their condition closely, watching for signs of withdrawal, feeding problems, and weight gain. They use a NAS scoring tool to help assess babies and determine when medication is needed to treat withdrawal symptoms. Babies exposed to some drugs, including methadone or Subutex, require hospital monitoring of at least seven days, while babies exposed to other substances may require a shorter observation period.

When are medications necessary?
Babies whose condition and NAS scores indicate the need for medication may stay in the hospital for up to four weeks or longer. Medications commonly used to ease NAS symptoms are morphine and phenobarbital. Babies are monitored carefully while being slowly weaned off the drugs.

What are the risks babies exposed to these kinds of substances or drugs face during withdrawal?
Babies withdrawing from drug exposure are at risk for seizures and death.

What can I do today to help my baby?
Speak to your physician and let him/her know of any drugs, including over-the-counter and herbal remedies you take so they can help you and your baby.

What if my baby has symptoms at home?
If your baby is having withdrawal symptoms and you are concerned, contact your physician immediately or take your baby to the nearest Emergency Room.

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