Pregnancy: Cocaine Effects on Newborns

Newborns can be affected by cocaine as much as and even more so than adults. When a pregnant woman takes cocaine, it can pass through the placenta and make its way to the brain of the infant.

Inside the baby, it is not metabolized as quickly as it is in adults, so it remains in their bodies for a very long time. Because of this, a newborn can be addicted to cocaine and suffer from withdrawal effects just like an adult. Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) refers to several conditions that babies may have when they are born already addicted to certain drugs. The baby must go through the withdrawal period upon birth, in these cases. NAS is a concern when pregnant mothers use cocaine, as well.[i]

Exposure During Pregnancy

cocaine addiction and pregnancyThere are many effects that cocaine can have on a fetus if it is taken while a woman is pregnant. For starters, a newborn baby can suffer from a low birth weight and smaller body mass, as well as smaller brains and overall head to body ratios.The chances of premature birth increase greatly if cocaine is taken during the later stages of pregnancy, and miscarriages are also possible.[ii]

These conclusions come from a variety of studies that were conducted, but there have been other studies that have shown no conclusive link between cocaine use and effects on newborn babies. Even though there is some dispute on the matter, it is generally agreed upon that cocaine usage—especially when you are pregnant—is harmful and dangerous.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Over the past several years, there have been several studies that have examined the link between Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and cocaine usage.

In a study of 1,760 people, variables such as smoking, race, and weight of the newborn child were kept tightly under control, and the effects of cocaine usage were measured. The results showed that the incidents of SIDS were markedly higher when cocaine was used than when it wasn’t. There have been other studies that have concluded that, while cocaine specifically did not have an effect, illicit drugs in general (such as cocaine, marijuana and heroin) do have an effect on increasing the rate of SIDS. Because of all of the research that has been done, one can conclude that there is a definitive relationship between cocaine usage and SIDS, birth weight, birth length, head size, brain size, possibility of premature birth and possibility of miscarriage.


The treatment program at The Canyon was developed to help you not only break your physical addiction to drugs like cocaine but to help you prepare for a life without drugs of addiction. There is also a Healing Life Nutrition program available at The Canyon which will help your body rid itself of the toxins inherent to cocaine and keep both you and the fetus healthy as you await the arrival of your child.

If you would like more information about the services we can provide pregnant women struggling with cocaine addiction, contact us today. Our admissions coordinators are available at our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to help connect you with the best treatment available. We can even check your insurance benefits for you to see what help is available to you in your addiction treatment journey. We want to help you start pursuing a life free from addiction. Please call now.