As an expectant mother, you want your baby to be healthy. One way you can help is to remember that you pass much of what you eat, drink, and breathe along to your growing baby.\nSome things are good for your baby. Others \u2014 like alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, and some medicines \u2014\u00a0can be harmful.\nA baby receives food and oxygen through the placenta attached to the umbilical cord. The placenta can’t tell the difference between what is good for your baby and what is harmful. That’s why you must make good choices.\nThe following will help you understand how your health and habits can affect your unborn child.\nSmoking and Pregnancy\nThe Surgeon General’s warning \u2014\u00a0“smoking by pregnant women may result in fetal injury, premature birth, and low birth weight” \u2014\u00a0appears on cigarette packs for good reason.\nTobacco smoke contains nicotine, arsenic, various tar products, and carbon monoxide. All of these are damaging to the body. And all of them can reach the baby through the placenta.\nFor example, nicotine causes problems with the flow of blood through the blood vessels. Smoking during pregnancy may limit blood flow through the placenta and slow your baby’s growth.\nOther risks of smoking during pregnancy\n\nPregnant smokers have a higher chance of miscarriage and stillbirth.\nBabies of smoking mothers have a higher chance of being born early and too small.\nLow-birth-weight babies (less than 5 \u00bd pounds) can suffer serious health problems throughout their lives.\nResearch shows that babies exposed to smoke are twice as likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).\n\nBreathing secondhand smoke or not inhaling while smoking\u00a0can still harm your baby\nSome pregnant women think that their babies are safe from the dangers of cigarettes because they don’t inhale. This is not true. Although this practice may decrease the danger, harmful elements are still passed to your baby.\nThe mucous membranes of your mouth and throat absorb tobacco smoke, even if you don’t inhale.\nNon-smoking mothers and their babies are also at risk when breathing smoke-filled air around them (secondhand smoke).\nIf you’re pregnant, quit smoking\nSmoking is a proven health hazard.\nSmokers decide to risk their health. Unborn babies don’t have the choice.\nPlease make the right choice for your baby. Don’t smoke.\nNeed help getting started? Find your quit smoking method.\nAlcohol and Pregnancy\nWhen you eat or drink, so does your baby. Food and drink quickly enter your baby’s bloodstream through the placenta.\nTo help your baby grow, it’s vital to drink a good amount of:\n\nMilk\nWater\nFruit juices\n\nJust as these healthy liquids reach your baby, so does alcohol.\nRisks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy\nDrinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).\nFAS is a group of mental and physical defects that may include:\n\nIntellectual disability\nHeart defects\nCleft palate\nDefects of the face, fingers, arms, and legs\n\nChildren with FAS \u2014\u00a0because of their mother’s alcohol use \u2014\u00a0often:\n\nAre hyperactive\nHave limited attention spans\nSuffer lifelong illness and health problems\n\nEven one or two drinks could have harmful effects on your unborn baby\nAlcohol affects everyone differently.\nMany pregnant women wonder if one or two drinks will harm their baby. Medical experts have not been able to decide on a safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy.\nDoctors do know that drinking during the first three months of pregnancy is particularly dangerous. This is the most important time for the baby’s organs \u2013\u00a0including the brain, heart, and lungs \u2013\u00a0to grow.\nFor this reason, you should stop alcohol use if you are planning to become pregnant. Weeks may pass before you know you are pregnant.\nDon’t take the chance of drinking during this crucial time in your baby’s development.\nEven after the first trimester, keep in mind that you share the alcohol you drink with your baby.\nThe more you drink, the more the baby receives. This increases the chance of serious problems.\nTo protect your baby from alcohol-related danger, you should not drink any alcohol while you’re pregnant.\nFollow these tips to quit drinking alcohol.\nOver-the-Counter and Prescription Drugs During Pregnancy\nThe average medicine cabinet has cold tablets, aspirin, allergy pills, and other over-the-counter and prescription drugs.\nBefore you became pregnant, you may not have thought twice about taking something when you didn’t feel well.\nYou must remember now that some medicines you take can harm your baby.\nAsk your doctor before you take any medicine, dietary supplement, or herbals. Don’t take a chance with your baby’s health.\nBelow are some common drugs and the possible harmful effects they can have on your baby.\nAspirin\nThis drug can be harmful, especially when you take large amounts in late pregnancy. It can cause abnormal bleeding, in both you and your baby, during delivery.\nDoctors usually suggest taking acetaminophen (Tylenol\u00ae) instead of aspirin.\nTranquilizers\nDoctors have linked an increased chance of cleft palate or cleft lip to some tranquilizers.\nCaffeine\nAlthough you might not think of it as a drug, caffeine \u2014\u00a0found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, and some pain medicines \u2014\u00a0causes birth defects in animals.\nWhile there’s no proof that caffeine is harmful to humans, many doctors say to limit your caffeine while pregnant to no more than two to three servings per day.\nVitamins\nOnly take the vitamins your doctor tells you to.\nLarge doses of some vitamins, such as Vitamin A, can cause birth defects.\nIllegal Drugs and Pregnancy\nIf you abuse drugs, you’re taking a chance with\u00a0your health and the health of\u00a0your baby.\nBabies born to mothers using street drugs\u00a0are often born too early and are smaller. They also tend to have behavioral problems, such as hyperactivity.\nMarijuana\nTo get the full effect of marijuana, smokers inhale deeply and hold the smoke in the lungs as long as possible.\nThere are many harmful gases in the smoke. You pass these along to the baby.\nSmoking marijuana while you’re pregnant may slow your baby’s growth.\nAfter your baby is born, breathing marijuana smoke can make the baby sick. It can cause breathing problems and increase the risk of catching colds and other illnesses more easily.\nCocaine or Crack\nCocaine can cause many problems for your baby before and after birth.\nThere’s a higher risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.\nBabies born to women who abuse cocaine can:\n\nBe hard to comfort\nHave feeding problems\nRequire special care\n\nOther harmful effects cocaine can have on your baby include:\n\nBlood circulation problems\nBrain damage\nLong-term behavioral health problems\n\nHeroin\nIf you use heroin, your baby is at higher risk for premature birth and poor growth.\nIf you’re a heroin addict, your baby will probably be born addicted. Your baby will need special care and medicine as he or she goes through withdrawal.\nOther street drugs\nOther street drugs that can cause problems with your baby’s growth and health include, but aren’t limited to:\n\nSpeed (amphetamines)\nLSD\nHashish\nUppers\nDowners\n\nMothers with addiction problems may not have good nutrition and health care, causing more problems for their babies.\nGet Help for You and Your Baby Today\nIf you have a problem with alcohol or drug use, please seek help before becoming pregnant. If you’re pregnant now, seek help as soon as possible. Don’t allow your baby to suffer because of your problems.\nHelp is available for any drug or alcohol problem at hospitals and chemical dependency centers.\nYou can also find help by calling your county’s United Way help line. For information about your county United Way agency, call 412-255-1155 any time of the day or night.\nIf you’re breastfeeding, check with your pharmacist, doctor, or nurse before you take anything. Alcohol and some drugs can present in mother’s milk.\nIf you have questions about how a drug \u2013\u00a0over-the-counter, prescription, or illegal \u2014\u00a0or any other substance affects pregnancy, talk with your doctor.\nOr, contact the UPMC Center for Medical Genetics and Genomics at 412-641-4168.