A healthy start

If you are pregnant and a regular user of alcohol and drugs, there are things you can do to improve your chances of a healthy pregnancy. 

On this page:

What you can do for you and your baby

  • Understand the drug you are taking and how it affects your pregnancy.
  • Get help so that you and your baby can be well.
  • Have regular pregnancy appointments to make sure your baby is growing.
  • Take simple steps to improve your diet.

What health services can do for you

Drug and alcohol counselling

Drug and alcohol counselling can help you:

  • make positive changes
  • find new ways to manage stress and anxiety
  • find ways to stop using drugs
  • learn about support and detox services
  • learn about 'harm minimisation' to reduce the harm to yourself and your baby
  • learn parenting techniques
  • find ways to improve your housing and money situation.

Pregnancy care

  • Regular pregnancy visits with a doctor or midwife are important to make sure you are healthy and your baby is growing well.
  • Drug and alcohol use can affect your appetite. Health professionals can help with your diet and recommend vitamin supplements.
  • At a hospital your health professionals will usually include doctors, midwives, dietitians, pharmacists and social workers.

Healthy pregnancy hints for women using drugs and alcohol

Most pregnant women have some discomfort in pregnancy. Alcohol and drug use can increase your discomfort and you may need extra support and advice. Some common discomforts are constipation, haemorrhoids, morning sickness and heartburn.

Tips to make you feel better

  • Drink plenty of fluid (water is best) – try drinking before or during meals rather than after.
  • Eat more fibre – especially fruits, vegetables and cereal foods.
  • Eat small amounts of nutritious food regularly.
  • Go to the toilet regularly (and don’t force it).
  • Be active and exercise gently and regularly.
  • Check your iron tablets (some cause constipation).
  • Coffee, chocolate, cola drinks and alcohol can make heartburn worse.
  • If you are taking methadone, eat something half an hour before your dose and rest afterwards until the nausea has settled.
  • To avoid feeling sick when you get out of bed, try eating a small snack during the night.
  • If morning sickness doesn’t settle, there are medicines available that can help. Talk to your health professional.
  • If you can’t stop vomiting, visit an emergency service.
  • Never take laxatives during pregnancy without checking if they are safe. Always ask first before taking any medication when you are pregnant. This includes 'natural medicines'. Ask your health professional about any symptoms that bother you.
  • Tell your doctor if there is any bleeding with haemorrhoids or bowel movements.

Eating well when you are using drugs and alcohol

Eating well will improve your health and your baby’s health. You will feel stronger, more energetic and able to cope better with stress. Dietitians can help with healthy meal and snack ideas, even when you are on a tight budget.

Eating well is not always easy.

It is hard to eat well if you don’t have a stable place to live or enough money for food. You might not have learnt to cook and shop for food, or you might not have a lot of energy or time to cook for your family or yourself. Ask your health professional about services in your local community that can work with you to develop new skills and improve your diet.

Healthy suggestions

  • If you are hungry, stop and grab a snack. Try easy snacks like those listed below.
  • Have one meal a day that has meat, chicken, eggs or fish with some salad or vegetables. It could be a hamburger or a stir-fry, an egg and salad sandwich, pizza or pasta with salad, or a home cooked meal.
  • At other times of the day, have cereals, fruit or sandwiches and a glass of milk with Milo or Ovaltine if you prefer.
  • Ask a friend or family member to cook or shop for you if you can’t do it yourself.
  • Don’t have too much tea, coffee or soft drinks and avoid ‘energy’ drinks, as they have lots of caffeine. If you’re thirsty drink more water.
  • If you don’t eat fruit, then have a glass of orange juice and some salad or vegetables instead. If you don’t eat vegetables, eat more fruit.

Quick ideas for meals and snacks

  • banana sandwiches
  • eggs or peanut butter on toast
  • baked beans
  • ice-cream, custard or yoghurt on fruit
  • pasta with cheese and a tomato sauce, beans or tuna
  • tuna with salad or on toast
  • stir-fried rice with vegetables
  • hot fresh take-away chicken and vegetables
  • soup and toast or homemade pizza
  • cheese toasties
  • a bowl of cereal
  • burritos or tacos
  • milkshake or fruit smoothie.

A variety of good foods every day will provide the vitamins, minerals and nutrition you and your baby need.

Dental health for drug and alcohol users

You need to take particular care of your teeth during pregnancy as poor dental health has been linked to premature birth, low birth weight and pre-eclampsia. This is especially important for women who are on a methadone program.

Brush regularly. Sometimes it’s hard to brush your teeth when you are feeling sick. Brush at times when you are feeling ok and at other times wash your mouth out with tap water (especially after vomiting).

Visit a dentist if you can. If you are pregnant and have a concession card (or you are the dependant of someone with a concession card) you do not need to go on the public waiting list to get a dental appointment. Let the clinic know you are pregnant when making a dental appointment.


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Disclaimer

The Women’s does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided on the Website or incorporated into it by reference. The Women’s provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for assessing its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest Emergency Dept.

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