When you’re pregnant and use tobacco, vaping products, alcohol, cannabis and other drugs, and certain medicines, they can affect you and pass through your
placenta to your growing baby.
Here are some common questions about using these substances when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Choose a topic to learn more.
People may say you need to quit for the baby’s sake. But think about doing it for you. Besides the money you’ll save, quitting for you will improve your health and benefit your family for years to come.
By cutting down or quitting smoking and vaping, you’ll lower the risk for many serious health problems. Quitting smoking lowers the risk of lung and breathing problems, triggering asthma, many cancers (including breast cancer), and being sicker when you get a cold or flu.
From before you were born until you’re in your mid-twenties, nicotine in tobacco and vaping products harms your brain by affecting your attention, learning, and memory. It can put you at higher risk of anxiety, mood swings and feeling irritable. Changes to the brain from nicotine can last for the rest of your life.
It’s never too late to quit smoking. Some benefits happen right away, such as your heart rate going back to normal, your nicotine level dropping to 0 in the first 24 hours, and toxic carbon monoxide gas leaving your blood in just a few days.
Not using tobacco and vaping products, eating healthy, and being active improve your and your baby’s health. These choices will contribute to a healthy pregnancy and delivery, including a better chance of a full-term pregnancy, healthy birth weight, and healthy body and brain development for your baby.
Aerosol (what you breathe out) from vaping products is believed to be less harmful than tobacco smoke, but it can still be harmful. Vaping products have been found to contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals that may cause cancer. It’s best not to use or be exposed to any tobacco and vaping products.
Quitting tobacco and vaping products as soon as you can is healthier for you and your baby.
Every step you take to cut down and quit is progress. It may take many tries to quit completely, but don’t give up. Every time you try is a chance to learn about your relationship with tobacco or vaping products. Think about what makes you want to quit or triggers you to use. Think about how you could manage cravings in healthy ways.
If you can’t quit all at once, start by using less. Cut out the times you use tobacco or vaping products that you think you need the least. Keep working on using less until you aren’t using at all. You can also try a practice quit. Try to go an hour, an afternoon, or a day without using tobacco or vaping products.
You don’t have to do it alone. There are many
supports and services to help you change your use. If you think you can’t quit without stop-smoking medicine, talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist for help.
A smaller baby does not make labour or birth easier. Most people don’t know that smaller babies are more likely to have health problems and may have to stay in the hospital longer.
Second-hand smoke is the smoke that is breathed out or comes off the burning end of a cigarette. It can be breathed in by others and settle on surfaces. This can cause health problems for you and your baby before and after they’re born.
Second-hand tobacco smoke puts you at risk for cancer, asthma, and heart disease. It puts your baby at higher risk for
sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), lung problems, and ear infections.
Evidence is showing that second-hand aerosol from vaping products is not harmless. Like smoke, aerosol from vaping may contain nicotine and other chemicals that can harm you, your family, and pets.
Plan to move all smoke and vaping aerosol outside your home and car, even if you haven’t stopped using yet. For more information go to Health Canada’s guide to
Make Your Home and Car Smoke-Free.
There is no safe amount or form of
cannabis to use while pregnant. If you are planning to get pregnant, use less or stop using cannabis before you get pregnant. Talk with your healthcare provider about using less and stopping and learn where to get help.
Any type of cannabis can affect your health. If you use cannabis when you’re pregnant, your baby is more likely to have:
If you use cannabis for medical reasons, talk with your healthcare provider about finding a safer option while you’re pregnant. If you have nausea and need relief, many medicines for nausea are safe to use when you’re pregnant. Your healthcare provider can help you find the best one for you.
Beer, wine, and hard liquor all have alcohol and can harm your baby. No amount or type of alcohol is safe to drink when you’re pregnant. It’s safest not to drink alcohol while you’re pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant.
If you do drink alcohol, stopping or drinking less at any stage of your pregnancy is a healthy change.
Alcohol affects everyone and their baby differently. Alcohol damage to your baby’s brain or other organs can’t be fixed. You may see some of the effects of alcohol when your baby is born. But other effects, such as learning or behaviour problems, may not show up until your baby is older and in school.
Alcohol and other drugs have different effects. Talk to your healthcare provider if you use alcohol or other drugs when you’re pregnant. They can help you stop or use less. They will help you find the best way to care for yourself and your baby. There are treatment programs, services, and even medicines that can help you.
How alcohol and other drugs might affect your baby depends on many things. Talk to your healthcare provider if you drank alcohol or used other drugs before you knew you were pregnant. They can help you understand the risks for you and your baby.
Drinking alcohol can harm your baby at any stage of pregnancy. There is no safe amount or type of alcohol when you’re pregnant. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions about drinking alcohol when you’re pregnant.
Medicines, supplements, and herbal products can pass through your placenta and affect your baby’s health. Some can even cause changes to how your baby’s body looks or works (birth defects).
Show your healthcare provider a list of all medicines, vitamin and mineral supplements, or herbal products that you take or plan to take. They can tell you which products are safe and give you more information.
It’s safest not to drink any type of alcohol when you’re breastfeeding.
Alcohol passes into your breastmilk and then to your baby. The level of alcohol in your breastmilk is the same as the level in your blood. Alcohol in breastmilk can affect your baby’s brain. Drinking alcohol can also cause your body to make less milk.
If you choose to drink alcohol once in a while, breastfeed before you drink and don’t have more than 1 standard drink. After drinking, wait 2 to 3 hours before you breastfeed again. This is how long it takes for the alcohol to leave your breastmilk.
If your breasts get uncomfortable before the 2 to 3 hours are up, express your milk with a pump or by hand. Don’t save this breastmilk or give it to your baby.
Plan ahead if you know you’re going to drink alcohol. Pump or express your breastmilk by hand and store it for later. You can give your baby this breastmilk if they get hungry before the 2 to 3 hours are up.
If you choose to drink more than once in a while, talk to your healthcare provider. Drinking too much alcohol can affect your baby and how you care for your baby.
Nicotine passes into your breastmilk. This can make your baby less likely to feed, fussy, sleep poorly, and spit up. The best thing you can do for your health and your baby’s health is to stop using tobacco and vaping products.
Breastmilk is great for your baby, so keep breastfeeding even if you choose to use tobacco or vape. Breastfeed right before you use tobacco or vape, so less nicotine passes through your breastmilk.
There is no safe amount or type of cannabis to use while breastfeeding. If you’re using cannabis for medical reasons, talk with your health provider about finding a safer alternative.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chemical in cannabis that makes you feel “high.” It passes into breastmilk and is stored there and passed to your baby. Using cannabis while breastfeeding can affect your baby’s brain and could cause learning and behavioural issues that last throughout their life.
Cannabis can also affect your mood, judgment, and how you care for your baby. If you use cannabis, talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about the risks and about how to cut down or quit.
If you need help to stop using tobacco, vaping, or using alcohol, cannabis or other drugs, talk to your healthcare provider.
Alberta Health Services also offers individual counselling and community support programs. The following provincial services are available to you:
Alberta Health Services. (2017). Baby Steps Help Guide. Tobacco Vaping and Cannabis Program. Baby Steps Help Guide - Knowledge Topic 1: Tobacco and Reproduction (albertahealthservices.ca)Baby Steps Help Guide - References (albertahealthservices.ca)
California Department of Public Health. (2021). Flavors Hook Kids. Nicotine=Brain Poison. Taken on Dec 22, 2021 from The Health Effects of Vaping on Teens | Learn More | Flavors Hook Kids - California Tobacco Control Program - English
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: E-Cigarettes and Pregnancy
Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. (2019). While FDA dithers, California continues to take e-cigs head on: Nicotine=Brain Poison.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Reproductive Health. Substance Use During Pregnancy. Tobacco. Taken on December 22, 2021 from: Substance Use During Pregnancy | CDC.
Government of Canada. (2021). About Vaping. Taken on December 22, 2021 from: About vaping - Canada.ca
Government of Canada. (2007). Pregnancy: Pre- and Postnatal Smoking Issues. Online resource taken November 2, 2021 from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/health-concerns/tobacco/smoking-your-body/pregnancy.html#issues
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Manigrasso, Maurizio, Carmela Protano, Matteo Vitali, and Pasquale Avino. 2021. "Passive Vaping from Sub-Ohm Electronic Cigarette Devices" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18, no. 21: 11606. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182111606
Smokefree.gov: Myths: Smoking and Pregnancy
Smokefree.gov: Stress & Smoking
Soule EK, Maloney SF, Spindle TR, et al.Electronic cigarette use and indoor air quality in a natural setting. Tobacco Control 2017;26:109-112.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2016. Pg. 99, 113, 218.
Current as of: March 16, 2022
Author: Healthy Children and Families
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.