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Substance Use and Pregnancy: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

When you are pregnant, each thing you eat, drink, or take into your body may affect your unborn baby. So try to eat healthy foods and drink lots of water while you are pregnant. Do not drink alcohol or use drugs, such as cannabis (marijuana), meth, cocaine, or heroin. Even a little alcohol or drug use can hurt your baby. Smoking can also slow your baby's growth. Alcohol and drug use during pregnancy can cause problems in your child that can last for his or her whole life.

If you are thinking about getting pregnant, stop drinking alcohol and do not use drugs or smoke. You may not know when you get pregnant.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Stop drinking alcohol. Tell your doctor or midwife if you need help to quit. Counselling, support groups, and sometimes medicines can help you stay sober. If you have a history of problems with quitting, tell your doctor or midwife. A person who drinks most of the day, starting in the morning, for example, may need medical help to quit drinking alcohol safely.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need.
  • Drink lots of water every day. This can help reduce premature contractions.
  • Take a daily vitamin that has folic acid. A vitamin meant for pregnant women can help prevent birth defects.
  • Increase the calcium in your diet. Good choices include skim or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. If you cannot eat milk products, you can get calcium from calcium-fortified products such as orange juice, soy beverage, and tofu. Other sources of calcium include leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Limit the amount of caffeine you get to 300 mg or less each day. That's about 2 cups of coffee or tea. Coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate all have caffeine.
  • Get regular exercise during pregnancy. Try to get 2½ hours a week. Walking and swimming are good exercises during pregnancy.
  • Use acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve minor problems, such as a mild headache or backache or a mild fever with cold symptoms. Do not use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as any type of aspirin product, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), unless your doctor says it is okay. Do not take any other medicine unless your doctor says it is okay.
  • Go to all scheduled doctor or midwife visits while you are pregnant.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor, midwife, or nurse advice line if:

  • You need help with drug or alcohol problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.