Tobacco, alcohol, cannabis: what are the risks?

Tobacco, alcohol, cannabis: what are the risks?

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Tobacco, alcohol, but also cannabis and other drugs are substances harmful to your health and that of your future baby. The effects and risks of the different pyschoactive substances are reviewed.

Tobacco and pregnancy: the risks for the future child

  • Several hundred substances have been identified in cigarette smoke, including carbon monoxide responsible for chronic hypoxia (a decrease in the amount of oxygen delivered to organs). Among the most serious repercussions of smoking on the fetus are stunted growth, labio-palatal malformations, in utero death (11% of deaths in utero are attributed to smoking). In children, the most serious repercussions are also stunting, alteration of pulmonary function at birth, an increase in ENT infections and an increased frequency of childhood cancers.
  • To find help during pregnancy: network maternities without tobacco

Alcohol and pregnancy: serious consequences

  • It is estimated that one in 20 pregnant women is daily in trouble with alcohol, most are polyconsumers (alcohol + other substances). The most serious consequence of fetal alcohol syndrome is a mental handicap (0.5 to 3 per thousand births).
  • This is the first cause of non-genetic mental handicap at birth). Other consequences due to fetal alcohol are known: growth retardation, characteristic dysmorphism, microcephaly, organ malformations, central nervous system abnormalities, cognitive and behavioral disorders.

Cannabis and pregnancy: consequences in case of heavy consumption

  • Say "soft" or "hard", any drug systematically passes from mother to child during the pregnancy, and later during breastfeeding. The effects on the unborn baby are mainly due to the tobacco consumed at the same time as cannabis: decrease of the birth weight (75 to 105 g), decrease of the duration of the pregnancy (1 week) for regular and important consumptions ( at least 6 times a week). No effects are known for occasional smokers.
  • Canadian studies have assessed the long-term consequences for children of in utero cannabis use: from 3-4 years of age, verbal scores, short-term memory, and reasoning skills (abstract / visual) decrease, then from 5-6 years and up to 18-22 years, were notably recorded deficits of attention, hyperactivity, a disturbance of certain cognitive tests (reasoning abstract / visual) at children mother who has consumed cannabis at least six times a week during pregnancy.


  • The main risks are due to weaning during pregnancy: the lack felt by the mother can have serious consequences for the fetus. Studies have shown that what makes the severity of these consumptions (cocaine, crack, heroin) is more the way of life that the products themselves.
  • Heroin, cocaine, morphine ... have dramatic consequences not only on the future mother herself but also on the baby of course. The unborn child will be very affected: weight and height below average, birth in a state of great respiratory distress ...
  • Do not hesitate to talk to the doctor who will refer you to specialized services to support you and help you.