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Women's Health
Kick bad habits

Habits are things we do over and over again without thinking about it. "Bad habits" are things we do over and over again that can cause harm. Using cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs harm women and can lead to sickness and even death in babies. Before you become pregnant, kick these bad habits.

Tobacco - Nix the Smokes!

Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death and illness. Now is the time to quit smoking. Women who are pregnant and smoke are more likely than non-smokers to have babies born too early and too small to be healthy.

Smoking during pregnancy can cause:

  • A miscarriage
  • Bleeding in your womb
  • Labor that starts too early

What smoking during pregnancy does to the baby:

  • Increases the risk of the baby being born dead
  • Slows the baby's growth so it may be born too small to be healthy
  • Increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

True or False?

Women who smoke have small babies and an easy delivery.

True False Find out

True or False?

If you don't quit smoking completely, it doesn't matter how much you smoke.

True False Find out

True or False?

Smoking affects babies and children of all ages.

True False Find out

True or False?

Quitting smoking before I get pregnant is the best time to quit.

True False Find out

For help and resources, check out the Quit smoking section of this Web site.

Stay Away from Secondhand Smoke

Research shows you don't have to be the one smoking to be hurt by cigarettes. Secondhand smoke is dangerous for non-smokers, especially babies.

  • Make Opens in new windowa plan to stay away from secondhand smoke - especially if you are trying to get pregnant!
  • Ask your partner, co-worker or friend to smoke outside
  • Eat in smoke-free restaurants or non-smoking sections
  • Say "no thanks" when friends offer you a cigarette
  • Say "yes, thanks for asking" if a friend asks if her smoke bothers you
  • Spend time outside or go to a non-smoking place (movies, library, malls, etc.)
  • Make a list of reasons for wanting to quit and look at it often

Remember, most people will not smoke around you if you ask them politely.

Alcohol - Cut Down and Then Cut Out!

Alcohol affects women differently than men; it takes less alcohol to affect women's health and behavior.

  • Alcohol can affect your judgment and cause you to do things you wouldn't normally do - including having unprotected sex which can lead to pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases
  • In large amounts, alcohol poisons the body and can cause death
  • Over time, alcohol can cause damage to the liver, heart, brain and nervous system
  • A 12-ounce bottle of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine and a 1 1/2-ounce shot of hard liquor all contain about the same amount of alcohol
  • If you could get pregnant, drinking alcohol is not a good idea. Half of all pregnancies are unplanned and unexpected.
  • There is no known safe amount of alcohol for pregnant women to drink. When a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol in her blood goes to her unborn baby and can hurt the baby.
  • Babies whose mothers drink when they are pregnant may be born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

FASD includes a range of disabilities in children caused by their mothers drinking during pregnancy. FASD is preventable. Children with FASD may:

  • Be born small - be shorter and weigh less at birth
  • Be born with brain damage
  • Have problems seeing and hearing
  • Have trouble following directions and learning to do simple things
  • Have trouble paying attention and learning in school
  • Have trouble getting along with others and controlling their behavior
  • Need medical care all their lives
  • Need special teachers and schools

Social Drugs - Stop Now!

Social drugs are drugs you choose to use to make yourself feel better but are not needed for a medical condition or illness.They are harmful to your health and can cause serious problems for an unborn baby. If you use social drugs, get help and quit now.

Some social drugs are illegal. They include:

Other drugs are legal, but can be used in a way that can cause harm. They include:

  • Medicines ordered by a doctor to cure an illness, relieve pain or prevent illness. These medications should not be shared or used to get "high"
  • Medicines that can be bought at the drug store. Normal doses may be harmful if a woman takes them and is pregnant

If you use drugs only occasionally or even just once, it is enough to harm an unborn baby or cause an addiction. For more information, contact the Substance Use Specialist at 1-800-688-4232. For more information about medicines during pregnancy visit
Opens in new window Medication Exposures During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Other Links

North Carolina

Opens in new windowN.C. Association of Local Health Directors - lists all local health departments by county and region

Opens in new windowQuit Now North Carolina - Find support, quit help-lines, and materials to stop smoking now

Pregnancy Exposure Riskline - 1-800-532-6302
or visit Opens in new windowFetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in NC - for information on materials and meetings


Opens in new windowAlcoholics Anonymous (AA) - or check your local phone book for listings in your area.

For more health information, search MedlinePlus

MedlinePlus Trusted Health Information for You

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Last updated: August 2014

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