Avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs

When you’re pregnant anything you smoke, drink or take can affect you and your baby. The best thing you can do is avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs.

Smoking

Smoking during pregnancy affects your baby and can cause health problems such as:

  • a low birth weight that could be harmful.
  • an increased risk of pneumonia, asthma or glue ear. It also increases the risk of your baby dying suddenly in their sleep.
  • a risk of losing your baby (miscarriage or stillbirth).

It’s never too late to quit for your baby. There are phone, web (blog), text and face-to-face services available to help you to quit smoking. Call Quitline on 0800 778 778 or visit Stop smoking to find out about these services. You can also visit our Have a smokefree home and car page for tips on making your home and car smokefree.

Alcohol

If you think you are pregnant or know you are pregnant, avoid alcohol altogether.

When you are pregnant, every time you drink alcohol (eg, beer, wine, spirits or RTDs) your baby is affected by the alcohol too. All alcohol is carried in your blood through the whenua/placenta to your baby.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy will increase the risk that your baby will have lifelong problems. There is a risk that your baby will not grow properly or their brain will be damaged and they will be difficult to look after.

In the most severe situation, there is a risk that your baby will be born with an intellectual disability, an unusual face and other birth defects (this is known as ‘fetal alcohol syndrome’). Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is the general term used to describe the range of problems that can occur. The more you drink, the greater the risk that your baby will have these kinds of problems.

After the birth of your baby, any alcohol that you drink will pass into your breast milk. If you choose to drink, make sure that your baby has someone looking after them who is alert to their needs and free from alcohol and drugs.

If you can’t stop your drinking or are worried about the amount of alcohol you drink, get help! Talk to your midwife (or specialist doctor), doctor or nurse. They will be able to refer you to a local service for help and support. The Alcohol Drug Helpline is also available for free, confidential information, help and support:

  • 0800 787 797 (24 hours a day)
  • free text 8681.

Drugs

Recreational drugs (such as cannabis) can cause problems to you and your baby. Your baby may miscarry, be born too early or have a dangerously low birth weight. Drugs such as methamphetamine can cause significant harm to your baby, including brain damage and birth defects. Other drugs such as heroin may cause your baby to be born drug dependent and suffer from withdrawal symptoms. Drug-dependent babies need expert care if they are to survive.

The use of more than one drug (including alcohol and tobacco) will increase the risks to you and your baby.

If you are using drugs, talk to your midwife (or specialist doctor), doctor or nurse. They will be able to refer you to a local service for help and support. The Alcohol Drug Helpline is also available for free, confidential information, help and support:

  • 0800 787 797 (24 hours a day)
  • free text 8681.

Related websites

Avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs – Tapuaki: Pacific pregnancy and parenting education
A substance-free pregnancy protects your and your baby’s future.

Smoking – Ministry of Health
About the health effects of smoking and how to stop smoking.

WERO Challenge
WERO is a stop smoking contest. It provides an opportunity for teams to compete against each other and win money for charity. For any hapū māmā (pregnant women) there is a special gift for her and her baby on becoming smokefree.

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