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South Country Health Alliance | What you share with your baby

Link to web pageWhat you share with your baby

When you are pregnant and during breastfeeding, remember what you take into your body, will also go into your baby’s body. Your baby’s brain and body are constantly developing. What happens during this time can affect your child well into adulthood.

Caffeine Use During Pregnancy

Caffeine Use During Pregnancy

Caffeine is a stimulant and a diuretic found in many foods and beverages. It is also found in prescription and over the counter medications. Caffeine is naturally found in the leaves, seeds, and fruits of more than 60 plants.

Caffeine crosses the placenta
  • Babies do not have a mature metabolism and cannot metabolize caffeine
  • Caffeine increases your blood pressure and heart rate, which are both bad in pregnancy.
  • Can cause changes in baby’s sleep pattern and normal movement pattern
  • Numerous studies on animals have shown that caffeine can cause birth defects, premature labor, preterm delivery, reduced fertility, and increase the risk of low-birth weight babies, and other reproductive problems.
  • The APA suggests to avoid caffeine as much as possible during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Williams Obstetrics Twenty-Second Ed. Cunningham, F. Gary, et al, Ch. 8.
March of Dimes
Alcohol Use During Pregnancy

Alcohol Use During Pregnancy

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects can include physical problems and problems with behavior and learning. Often, a person with an FASD has a mix of these problems.
Signs and Symptoms
FASDs refer to the whole range of effects that can happen to a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These conditions can affect each person in different ways, and can range from mild to severe and they last a lifetime. A person/child with an FASD might have:
  • Abnormal facial features, such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip (this ridge is called the philtrum), small head size, or shorter than average height
  • Low body weight
  • Poor coordination
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Difficulty with attention
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty in school (especially with math)
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech and language delays
  • Intellectual disability or low IQ
  • Poor reasoning and judgment skills
  • Sleep and sucking problems as a baby
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones
For more information on types of FASDs, early intervention treatment services, and other helpful resources:
Marijuana Use During Pregnancy

Marijuana Use During Pregnancy

THC does cross the placenta and enters the baby’s bloodstream, which can lead to:

  • Growth Deficiencies
  • Behavioral Problems
  • Babies often show altered responses to visual stimuli, have increased trembling, and a high pitched cry, which can indicate problems with neurological development.
  • Once the child reaches school age, the child is more likely to show gaps in problem-solving skills, memory, and the ability to remain attentive.
  • THC can accumulate in breast milk and high numbers can be found with regular use. Since baby’s brain is still developing at this time, exposure to THC in the breast milk could affect the brain development.


Presentation by Ann M. Lansing MPH, BSN, RN, CARN and Caitlin Callahan MSW, LGSW
Tobacco Use During Pregnancy

Tobacco Use During Pregnancy

•Nicotine crosses the placenta
•The placenta is the source of hormones, pro-oxidants, and antioxidants enzymes. Smoking disrupts this and increases the fetal exposure to free radical damage.
•Smoking tobacco:
  • Increases the risk of preterm birth
  • Smaller head circumference-small chest circumference
  • Shorter body-decreased length of long bones
  • Increase risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
  • Causes fetal hypoxia by constricting their blood vessels and decreasing the amount of oxygen they receive. This also causes a decrease in the amount of nutrients the baby can receive, leading to a smaller baby.
  • Impacts developing nervous system and cardiovascular system
  • Male babies are more affected than female babies
  • Can decrease coordination of parts of the fetal brain
  • May increase risk of congenital heart defects
  • Decreases pulmonary function
  • May increase risk of miscarriage
  • May make conception more difficult
  • Increases risk of cleft lip or palate
  • Some tobacco contains Cadium or Toluene-both cause growth retardation
  • Baby may have an increase in tremors and startle response
  • Have muscle tone abnormalities
  • Reading difficulties
  • Increases activity, inattentiveness, impulsivity
  • Increased risk of obesity
  • Increased risk of depression and aggression
  • Poorer language development
  • May continue to be smaller in height throughout their childhood
  • Decreases pulmonary function-increases respiratory related hospitalizations
  • May increase the risk for colic

What about products that don’t burn, like electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco?

Women may perceive tobacco products that don’t burn to be safer than smoking cigarettes. In addition, the use of electronic cigarettes —also referred to as e-pens, e-hookah, tanks, or vape pens—is increasing rapidly among youth and adults.
  • All tobacco products contain nicotine, which is a reproductive toxicant and has adverse effects on fetal brain development.
  • Pregnant women and women of reproductive age should be cautioned about the use of nicotine-containing products, such as electronic cigarettes, as alternatives to smoking. The health effects of using electronic cigarettes before or during pregnancy have not been studied.
  • The use of smokeless tobacco products, such as snus, during pregnancy has been associated with preterm delivery, stillbirth, and infant apnea.
Presentation by Ann M. Lansing MPH, BSN, RN, CARN and Caitlin Callahan MSW, LGSW