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Facts for Life

Safe Motherhood

Supporting Information


Smoking, alcohol, drugs, poisons and pollutants are particularly harmful to pregnant women, the developing fetus, babies and young children.

If a pregnant woman smokes, her child is more likely to be born underweight. Her child is also more likely to have coughs, colds, croup, pneumonia or other breathing problems.

A pregnant woman can damage her own health and the health of the fetus by drinking alcohol or using narcotics. These substances can severely affect a child's physical and mental development. The mother-to-be should stop drinking alcohol and/or taking drugs as soon as she plans a pregnancy or suspects she is pregnant. If she has difficulty stopping, she should seek medical advice and support from a trained health worker, a health centre or a substance-abuse organization.

A pregnant woman should not take medicines during pregnancy unless they are absolutely necessary and prescribed by a trained health worker.

To ensure proper physical growth and mental development of the child, women of childbearing age, pregnant women, mothers and young children need to be protected from smoke from tobacco or cooking fires; from pesticides, herbicides and other poisons; and from pollutants such as lead found in water transported by lead pipes, in vehicle exhaust and in some paints.

Families and communities can especially help pregnant women, mothers and their children by supporting smoke-free environments so they do not inhale damaging secondary tobacco smoke.

Workplaces should protect women of childbearing age, pregnant women and mothers from exposure to harmful smoke, poisons and pollutants that can affect their health and that of their children.