SafeMotherhood
safe motherhood

LOOKING AFTER YOURSELF

ALCOHOL, SMOKING, CAFFEINE AND CANNABIS

COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES
ALCOHOL, SMOKING, CAFFEINE AND CANNABIS
MEDICINES/VACCINATIONS
EXERCISING SAFELY
EATING SAFELY
ESSENTIAL VITAMINS AND MINERALS
WHAT TO EAT IN PREGNANCY
Giving up smoking
Safe exercises
Chickenpox (varicella)
TRAVEL
Back to Introduction

Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea and cola. Research has linked excessive amounts of caffeine with miscarriage, birth defects and the slow growth of babies during pregnancy - although the results are somewhat confused.

'Too much' caffeine means more than four to five cups of instant coffee or two to three cups of filtered coffee, or five to six cups of tea a day.

Cannabis

Although there is no research linking cannabis use with disabilities in babies, regular use of this drug during pregnancy may cause:

• premature birth;
• irritability during the first weeks of your baby's life;
• slower development of the baby in its early years.

Tobacco

A third of all women smokers quit when they get pregnant. This is because tobacco:

• stunts the baby's growth by reducing oxygen levels and narrowing the blood vessels in the placenta;

• makes the heart beat unhealthily fast;

• fills the amniotic fluid with cancer-causing chemicals;

• increases the risk of cot death;

• reduces the chance of the baby having a normal, healthy, lively childhood.

Stopping smoking is the best gift you can give your unborn baby. Ask your midwife what help is available locally. There may be a support group, or a midwife, or practice nurse with special expertise in helping women who want to stop. Ring Quitline on freephone: 0800 00 22 00 for extra support when things get difficult.

Alcohol

All first-time mothers are told that 'there is no evidence that light or occasional drinking will harm your baby' during their pregnancy. This is defined as 'no more than one or two units of alcohol once or twice a week', for instance, up to four units a week.

Although alcohol does cross the placenta, the NCT feels that more research is needed before we can categorically say that it causes no harm.