Give Your Baby a Clean Start

What you should know about drug or alcohol use during pregnancy.

When pregnant women take alcohol drugs, whether prescription, over the counter medications or illegal, their babies may be exposed to these substances. Sometimes these babies are born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). This means that these babies are born suffering from painful withdrawal symptoms such as  seizures, frequent high-pitched crying, breathing problems, fever, blotchy skin, and extreme sensitivity to sounds and light. In many cases, these newborns are treated with methadone, the same drug used to treat heroin addicts, and morphine to ease their constant pain.

It is very important to talk to a doctor about all the medications you are taking, including prescription pain pills.

By talking to a doctor before or during your pregnancy, you can reduce the chances of your baby being born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and other health problems.

If you are already pregnant, there is still time to help your baby. The earlier a doctor is involved the better. A doctor can help make sure any withdrawal your baby might have after birth is less severe.

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Opiates (Pain Killers)

Using prescribed or illegal opiates (pain killers) during pregnancy can cause serious problems for you and your baby.

Opiate exposure increases the risk of:

  •  Stillbirth
  • Being born too early or too small
  • Low birth weight
  • Birth defects (including heart and spinal cord defects)
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Problems growing and learning

Babies who are exposed to opiates (pain killers) during pregnancy often have withdrawal after birth.  This is known as “Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome” (NAS).

Symptoms include:

  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Feeding problems
  • Tremors and seizures
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • And many others

If you are using opiates during pregnancy, don’t stop on your own. Talk to your doctor right away!

Click here to learn more about local support for Addiction and Pregnancy


If you smoke – whether e-cigarettes or tobacco – you and your baby are exposed to toxic chemicals that can endanger your pregnancy!

Using nicotine during pregnancy reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients the baby receives.

Smoking during pregnancy can cause:

  • An ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy in the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus)
  • Birth defects (such as cleft lip/palate)
  • Stillbirth
  • Early labor
  • Low birth weight
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Problems growing and learning
  • Health problems that can last through childhood or longer (such as allergies and asthma)

Its never too late to stop smoking. Call the Healthy Start Program today at (941) 861-2905 if you are pregnant and need help quitting.

Video produced by: D. Kirk Voelker

Stimulants (Speed)

Using methamphetamine (meth) during pregnancy can cause problems with your unborn baby, that can last through childhood.

Babies exposed to methamphetamines:

  •  Sleep for shorter periods of time
  • Are fussy, restless, and cry more often
  • Have feeding problems
  • Can  have permanent growth and learning delays

Cocaine and crack use during pregnancy can cause your baby to be born too small or too early. It can also cause you to go into labor too early or to have a stillbirth or miscarriage.

Babies exposed to cocaine or crack often experience:

  • Extreme fussiness and irritability
  • Painful withdrawals
  • Problems with behavior and growth


There is no safe amount of alcohol to drink when you are pregnant. Small amounts of alcohol can harm your growing fetus and may cause your baby to have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Drinking during the first trimester can cause damage to developing organs:

  • Brain
  • Heart
  • Kidneys and other organs

Babies born with FASD may have:

  • Low birth weight
  • Mental retardation
  • Birth defects
  • Problems with learning and behavior

It is never too late to stop drinking!


Using marijuana while you are pregnant is not safe for your or your baby. It increases your risk of falling and affects your judgement.

Babies exposed to marijuana during pregnancy can have problems like:

  • Being born too early
  • Low birth weight
  • Show withdrawal symptoms (cry a lot, trouble sleeping, trembling)
  • Poor growth and development
  • Problems with attention and memory

Pregnancy Prevention

If you are having sex, you and your partner are responsible for pregnancy prevention. Using alcohol or drugs makes it more likely that you will have an unwanted pregnancy.
  • Half of all pregnancies are not planned.  Unplanned pregnancies have a higher chance of having problems, such as birth defects, stillbirth, low birth weight, or a baby that is born too small or too early.
  • The early months in a pregnancy are very important for your baby to grow healthy, as many of your unborn fetus’ organs are being made.
  • Most women don’t even know they are pregnant during this important time.
  • Pick a method of pregnancy prevention that suits your lifestyle and use it as directed every time you have sex.
  • It is best to think about stopping the use of alcohol or drugs before you get pregnant.  This is a big step. Help is available in Sarasota County.
Young beautiful pregnant model in white tank top touching her belly, mom-to-be showing heart shape with her hands, gray background, studio, close-up

How can I get started?

To get confidential and non-judgmental help finding a doctor for your pregnancy or to get more information on making a CLEAN START, contact: The Healthy Start Program,(941) 861-2905

Located at the: Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County, Second Floor, 2200 Ringling Blvd. Sarasota, FL 34237