Te momi paipa, te kai waipiro me te kai pūroi i a koe e hapū ana Smoking, alcohol, and drugs when you are pregnant

If you think you are pregnant, are pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, stop smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs.

Smoking and pregnancy

Smoking during pregnancy affects your pēpi and can cause health problems, such as:

  • a risk of losing your pēpi (miscarriage or stillbirth)
  • a low birth rate that could be harmful 
  • an increased risk of pneumonia, asthma or glue ear as an infant
  • an increased risk of your pēpi dying suddenly in their sleep after birth. 

It is never too late to quit for your pēpi. There are phone, web (blog), text and face to face services to help you to quit smoking.

Drinking and pregnancy

Stop drinking alcohol if you could be pregnant, are pregnant, or are trying to get pregnant. All alcohol is carried in your blood through the whenua (placenta) to your pēpi. There is no known safe level of drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Even small amounts of alcohol can harm your pēpi. 

Complications from alcohol

Drinking alcohol in pregnancy will increase the risk that your pēpi will have lifelong problems. There is a risk that:

  • they will not grow properly
  • their brain will be damaged
  • they will have ongoing behaviour and development challenges. 

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

Sometimes, babies will be born with an intellectual disability or an unusual face. But most babies affected by alcohol will not have these features. 

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is the term used by healthcare providers to describe the range of problems that can occur. The more you drink, the greater the risk your pēpi will have these kinds of severe and lifelong problems.

If you choose to drink while breastfeeding

Not drinking alcohol is the safest option for breastfeeding parents. Generally, moderate alcohol consumption by the breastfeeding parent — up to 1 standard drink each day — is not known to be harmful to babies, especially if you wait at least 2 hours after a standard drink before breastfeeding. 

Exposure to alcohol above moderate levels through breast milk could be damaging to your babies:

  • development
  • growth
  • sleep patterns. 

Alcohol consumption above moderate levels may also impair your judgement and ability to care for your pēpi.

If you do drink alcohol while breastfeeding, it is recommended that you wait at least 2 hours before breastfeeding for each standard drink because your alcohol level takes time to drop. For example, if you have 2 standard drinks, you should wait 4 hours to breastfeed. You might choose to express (pump) your milk, and discard (dump) it after drinking alcohol to ease any physical discomfort.  

Standard drinks — Ministry of Health (external link)

To reduce your baby's exposure to alcohol, if you have had more than a moderate amount, you may choose to wait 2 hours (for each standard drink) to either:

  • breastfeed
  • feed your pēpi with milk that had been previously expressed when you when you had not been drinking. 

Breast milk continues to have alcohol in it as long as alcohol is still in your bloodstream. 

Drinking alcohol is not an indication to stop breastfeeding. But, it is safest for your pēpi to always be cared for by a sober parent.

If you cannot stop drinking

If you cannot stop drinking, or are worried about the amount you are drinking, get help. Talk to your midwife, healthcare provider or nurse. They will be able to refer you to a local service for help and support. 

Drugs and pregnancy

Recreational drugs, like cannabis, can cause problems for you and your pēpi, such as:

  • you may have a miscarriage
  • your pēpi may be born too early
  • your pēpi may have a dangerously low birth weight. 

Drugs such as methamphetamine can cause significant harm to your pēpi. This includes brain damage and birth defects. 

Other drugs, such as heroin, may cause your pēpi to be born dependent on drugs, and suffer from withdrawal symptoms. Babies who are born dependent on drugs need expert care if they are to survive. 

The use of more than 1 drug, including alcohol and tobacco, will increase the risks to you and your pēpi. 

If you are using drugs

Talk to your midwife, healthcare provider, or nurse. They will be able to refer you to a local service for help and support. 

Help and support

The Alcohol Drug Helpline is also available for free, confidential information, help and support. 

You can also find support services in our Alcohol and Drug services section.

Alcohol and drug services (internal link)