Why It’s So Important Not to Drink or Use Drugs during Pregnancy

A sad pregnant woman.

It has been common knowledge for some time that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not consume drugs, drink alcohol to excess, or consume tobacco. All three of these activities are not only harmful to Mom’s health, but such activities also pose a risk to her unborn or infant child.

And to make what we already know about the matter even more pressing, new evidence suggests that women who are pregnant should not drink any alcohol at all. Not even a drop. Why? Because a new study suggests that just a small amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy can increase the risk of a miscarriage.

A New Study on Pregnancy and Alcohol Consumption

An article in U.S. News reported on data from a study done by the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee. The researchers compiled and analyzed 24 separate studies conducted between 1970 and 2019. The studies included more than 231,000 pregnant women.

The study results were pretty concerning. According to the data, women who drink alcohol even in small amounts during their pregnancy increase their odds of miscarriage by 19 percent. And for women who have fewer than five drinks per week, each additional drink was linked with a 6 percent higher risk for a miscarriage.

The study revealed how little is known about the direct effect of alcohol on an unborn child. The gaps in understanding are still quite profound, but the researchers were able to show a connection between alcohol consumption and a startling increase in the likelihood of a miscarriage.

“Since alcohol is one of the most common exposures in early pregnancy, it’s critical to understand how consumption relates to miscarriage.”
A pregnant woman is at home and she is looking at the bottle of beer.

Lead investigator, Dr. Alex Sundermann, commented on the findings: “Since alcohol is one of the most common exposures in early pregnancy, it’s critical to understand how consumption relates to miscarriage. Adverse pregnancy outcomes, like fetal alcohol syndrome, are often associated in popular culture with heavy consumption. However, our meta-analysis indicates even a modest amount of alcohol use has a meaningful impact on miscarriage risk.”

Most women do cease all alcohol consumption once they are aware that they are pregnant. However, the study revealed something very interesting that wasn’t known before. Even within the first few weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know they are pregnant, alcohol consumption can drastically increase the risks for an early-term miscarriage.

Again quoting Dr. Sundermann: “The groundwork for fetal development is laid in those first weeks of gestation before pregnancy can be detected with a home test, and that is also the time when alcohol exposure is most prevalent. It’s key that we understand the impact of consumption in those first weeks.”

The full study can be found at the Wiley Online Library.

A Clean and Sober Life Is Always the Best Life

While the U.S. News article does not talk about addiction or substance abuse, the report does remind us of one, critical maxim that is universally applicable to all persons—men, women, moms, dads, adolescents, the elderly, etc.:

  • A sober life is always better than a life of experimenting with and using a substance, even when such substance use is done in a moderate fashion.

Substances like drugs, alcohol, and tobacco offer no health benefits. Instead, their use does create many risks and dangers. And as in the case of pregnant moms, abusive fathers, and drunk drivers, to name a few, substance use can also harm other people nearby who aren’t even using the substance.

From the perspective of furthering the health and well-being of the society as a whole, it is clear to see that using toxic and harmful substances is not only harmful to the individual, but is detrimental to his friends, his family members, and others in his community or city.

If we could promote and achieve a sober and substance-free community, how great of a society would that be? It might be a pie-in-the-sky dream, a Utopian fantasy, but a community of zero drunk driving, zero second-hand smoke, zero drug dealers, zero local addicts, zero drunken brawls… well, that sounds like a great community to me.

Helping Your Loved One Break Free from Addiction

A mother with a pregnant daughter.

Refraining from drug use, drinking, or using tobacco is not always as simple as a mother merely deciding not to consume potentially harmful substances while pregnant or breastfeeding. For some people, they use substances compulsively, having no control over their consumption of those substances.

When this happens, it takes more than a new scientific study and new data about miscarriages to get such people to stop using substances. When this happens, the best and the only course of action that works is to help those individuals get into and through residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers. Such centers offer incredibly helpful programs for breaking free from addiction and dependence on substances.

Thankfully, it is not common for pregnant moms to fall prey to a drug habit or alcohol addiction. But when this does happen, it is a truly dire situation. It’s not just Mom’s health which is at risk. It’s her baby’s health too. There are two lives at stake here, not just one.

Do you know someone who is struggling with drug and alcohol addiction? Are you trying to help someone you care about break free from a drug habit? Is there a fair amount of drug use in your community and you want to do something about it?

If one of your family members or loved ones is struggling with an addiction, whether they are pregnant or not, you should do your best to help them get into a residential drug and alcohol treatment center.

These programs usually offer withdrawal assistance. They provide one-on-one help and a group setting that is entirely conducive to recovery. The best of these programs provide specialized care, a safe and secure environment, medical assistance when necessary, and ongoing help through aftercare programs. Residential rehabs are crucial to the recovery process. If you know someone who needs this type of help, make sure they get that help as soon as possible.




Reviewed by Claire Pinelli ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.