Cocaine Abuse and Pregnancy

Cocaine abuse during pregnancy can harm the development of your baby and have lasting effects long into childhood that include learning problems, behavioral problems and ADHD. It’s important for women who use cocaine during pregnancy to understand that every time they use, their baby is using as well. Toxins from cocaine will pass through your placenta and into the baby, potentially creating growth and birth defects in utero and painful withdrawal symptoms after birth.

If you’re suffering from a cocaine addiction during pregnancy, it’s important to get help as soon as possible to minimize the damaging effects on your unborn baby. Here’s what you need to know about cocaine abuse and pregnancy and how to get help.

Cocaine Abuse and Pregnancy: The Facts

•    A 2002 study found that children exposed to cocaine in the fetus are twice as likely to have significant delays in mental development throughout the first two years of life and are almost five times as likely to develop mental retardation.
•    A 1999 study showed that almost 29% of pregnant women who used cocaine had spontaneous abortions (miscarriages).
•    Studies show that women who use cocaine during pregnancy are twice as likely to deliver prematurely. They also increase their risk of having a stillbirth.
•    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that mothers who used cocaine early in pregnancy were five times as likely to have a baby with a malformation of the urinary tract.

Cocaine Addiction and Pregnancy: Effects on the Fetus

•    Restricted blood flow and oxygen to the baby
•    Premature detachment of the placenta (placental abruption), which results in heavy bleeding that can be life-threatening to the mother and baby
•    Growth defects
•    Birth defects to the face, body, kidneys, brain and urinary tract

Cocaine Addiction and Pregnancy: Effects on Newborns

•    Dependence on or addiction to cocaine
•    Greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
•    Hyperactivity
•    Irritability
•    Tremors
•    Feeding problems
•    Sleep disturbances
•    Low birth weight, which increases the risk of death within the first month and increases the risk of mental disabilities, cerebral palsy, visual and hearing impairment later in life.
•    Intestinal abnormalities
•    Withdrawn or unresponsive
•    Learning and behavioral problems later in life, including language delays and attention problems (an increased risk of ADHD is reported)

Cocaine Addiction and Pregnancy: Getting Help

If you’re suffering from a cocaine addiction during pregnancy, it’s absolutely necessary for your health and the health of your baby to get help now. Many women have successfully treated their addiction during pregnancy. The sooner you seek help, the better chance your baby will have of being born healthy and living a normal healthy life. Women who seek treatment within the first trimester greatly increase these chances. If you’re well into your pregnancy, don’t be discouraged. Your baby can only benefit from any help you receive, no matter what trimester you’re in.

In order to safely treat your addiction, including safe detox, during pregnancy, you should seek the help and guidance of a professional treatment facility experienced in helping pregnant women treat their addiction.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.