The Effects of Cocaine

“What happens if I use cocaine while I’m pregnant?”

Using cocaine while you’re pregnant can harm both you and your baby, and the effects can last long into their childhood. Babies born to mothers who used cocaine during pregnancy tend to grow poorly; they are shorter, have smaller heads, and weigh less than babies who weren’t exposed to cocaine. These babies also face long-term disabilities, including visual, learning, and hearing problems. (source:

Cocaine use can cause placental abruption; that’s when the placenta pulls away from the uterus before labor starts. This condition can cause heavy bleeding and be deadly for both the mother and baby. Cocaine increases the risk of delivering prematurely (before week 37 of pregnancy). Babies born prematurely typically begin life with major health problems, such as difficulty breathing.

Please remember that the information shared here shouldn’t replace medical care and advice from your doctor.


Possible Side Effects of Using Cocaine


Sad girlUsing cocaine during pregnancy may reduce the chances of carrying the baby to full-term, meaning between 37 and 41 weeks. The last few weeks of pregnancy are very important stages in the baby’s brain development. At 35 weeks along, a baby’s brain is only two-thirds the weight of what it will be at 39 or 40 weeks. Delivering too early may have a negative effect on a baby’s final growth spurt.

Cocaine causes major problems in the central nervous system, which might not be noticed until the child is older. They may have problems focusing their attention and controlling their behavior. Learning setbacks, language difficulties, growing at a slower rate, and the need for special education in school have been reported. This study discovered that children who were exposed to cocaine in utero had 2.8 times the risk of having a learning disability.

Cocaine will directly affect the central nervous system. Since it can cross the placenta, cocaine directly reaches the fetus. The direct contact of the drug to the fetus can lead to many birth defects, like:

  • Limb reduction defects (a limb doesn’t form properly)
  • Congenital heart diseases
  • Cleft palate


Can I Adopt Out My Baby if I’ve Been Using?

New born baby with his mother

Adoption is a choice that you can make, even if you’ve been using coke during your pregnancy. Some might ask “How could you give your baby away?” The truth is, good moms put the needs of their child before their own. And in some situations, making an adoption plan is the right choice. If you want the very best for your baby, but can’t provide that for him or her right now, adoption might be the right answer.  “When I found out I was pregnant, I was in and out of rehab and didn’t have a dependable place to live. I didn’t feel like it was right to drag my daughter along for that struggle,” shares one woman, who asked to remain anonymous.

Whatever your situation looks like, the choices you make for your child are up to you when you choose open adoption. With open adoption, you can select the adoptive family for your baby, how things go at the hospital, and how much contact you want with your child in the future. To learn more about open adoption, call or text us at 1-800-923-6784.

(sources: “MOTHERISK ROUNDS: Cocaine Abuse During Pregnancy” by Cressman, Natekar, Kim, Koren, and Bozzo in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, and

Fetal Anomalies and Long-Term Effects Associated with Substance Abuse in Pregnancy: A Literature Review” by Viteri, Soto, Bahado-Singh, Christensen, Chauhan, and Sibai in the American Journal of Perinatology)