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Alcohol, Nicotine, Substance Use

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The Alcohol and Substance Use Helpline - 1-877-327-4636
offers information and counseling to pregnant and breastfeeding women, their families, and health care providers. Helpline information is based on continuing research and study by Motherisk's specialized team of physicians, psychologists, pharmacologists and counselors.

You can reach us:
  • Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in each of Canada's time zones
  • toll free within Canada
  • in English or French

Call us for information on:
  • the possible effects of alcohol and other substances on your baby
  • referrals to services in home communities
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome assessments at The Hospital for Sick Children
  • laboratory tests for drugs and alcohol in babies

Some Myths and Facts about Alcohol and Substance Use

MYTH: "Alcohol or drugs taken after the first trimester will not affect the unborn baby."
FACT:Most organ development is completed a few weeks after the first trimester. Brain development continues throughout pregnancy and after birth. Exposure to substances any time in the pregnancy can affect the baby's brain. Call the Helpline to understand the risks better.

MYTH: "A breastfeeding mother can provide more breast milk for her baby by drinking beer."
FACT: When a mother drinks alcohol it passes into her breast milk. Studies have shown that infants take in less breast milk when the mother drinks any type of alcohol, including beer. Call the Helpline for the facts on the effects of alcohol while breastfeeding.

MYTH: "One drink in pregnancy is enough to harm the unborn baby."
FACT: A safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy is not known. It is unlikely, though, that a single drink before you knew you were pregnant could damage your unborn baby. Avoid drinking when you know you are pregnant and call the Helpline to talk about how drinking during pregnancy can affect your unborn baby's development.

MYTH: "There is no hope for a baby exposed to heavy drug and alcohol use."
FACT: There is always hope. Drug and alcohol use in pregnancy affects each baby differently. Call for information on the risks of birth defects and where to find prenatal support.

Motherisk Research


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* - "MOTHERISK - Treating the mother - Protecting the unborn" is an official mark of The Hospital for Sick Children. All rights reserved.

The information on this website is not intended as a substitute for the advice and care of your doctor or other health-care provider. Always consult your doctor if you have any questions about exposures during pregnancy and before you take any medications.

Copyright © 1999-2013 The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). All rights reserved.

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is a health-care, teaching and research centre dedicated exclusively to children; affiliated with the University of Toronto. For general inquires please call: 416-813-1500.

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