Throughout pregnancy, the baby is directly connected to your bloodstream. It is supplied with all important nutrients via the umbilical cord. However, substances that can harm the baby also enter the body via the same route. These include, for example, toxins from exhaust fumes or other dangerous chemicals. This also applies to cigarettes, alcohol, pills, or any illegal drug you might ingest. But what do the substances do to an embryo or fetus? When is there a risk of permanent damage that could affect your child? Where can you find help to keep yourself and your pregnancy as safe as possible?

Perhaps you took intoxicating substances like cannabis, (i.e. marijuana or hashish) or certain mushrooms from time to time before you became pregnant. You should not smoke, eat or otherwise ingest these substances while pregnant or breastfeeding. This is even more true for narcotics like cocaine, heroin, crack or amphetamines like Ritalin. If you use drugs during pregnancy, they enter your baby’s body through the bloodstream and can cause severe, sometimes lifelong, physical and mental damage. Babies of mothers who are addicted to heroin or other opiates usually also suffer from bad withdrawal symptoms after birth. If you are taking opiates and find out that you are pregnant, you definitely shouldn’t stop taking them from one day to the next, however. Going cold turkey is a severe stress for the pregnancy and can lead to miscarriage. The best thing to do is get help from a drug counseling centre. There you will also find out which doctors you can contact to help you and your baby get through the pregnancy in good shape. You certainly don't have to deal with this difficult situation alone.

There are also drugs that are legally available but are still addictive and can harm your pregnancy. These include sleeping pills and sedatives called benzodiazepines or ‘benzos’. Commonly used substances from this group of drugs include diazepam, lorazepam and midazolam. Benzodiazepines are powerful drugs that doctors sometimes prescribe for severe anxiety or sleep disorders. However, these drugs can quickly become addictive. Strong prescription painkillers with active ingredients such as oxycodone, tilidine and fentanyl can also be problematic.

If you are taking these medications and have become pregnant, it is important to talk to a doctor about this situation early on. If you are taking these drugs illegally or are addicted to them, you should seek urgent help from a drug counselling service. Screenings are a good opportunity to address this issue and have your situation assessed professionally. Don't be ashamed to speak up about your problems. This is the only way you can get the right support for you and your baby.