Alcohol and Pregnancy: What You Should Know

When you consume alcohol, so does your baby. Alcohol freely passes through the placenta to your baby. Alcohol can have an adverse effect on your baby's development.

The results can be Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Fetal Alcohol Effects. These effects are life long and irreversible. The good thing is that they are 100% preventable.

Facts about alcohol

Alcohol is a teratogen. Teratogen is a substance known to be harmful to human development.

Alcohol crosses the placenta to your baby. When you drink alcohol, so does your baby. Therefore alcohol can be harmful to your baby's development.

All drinks that contain alcohol can be harmful to your baby. There is no safe amount of alcohol to consume while you are pregnant. It is best to discuss any drinking patterns with your doctor.

How does alcohol affect my baby's development?

Your baby is constantly growing and developing throughout these nine months. During the first four weeks of pregnancy your baby's heart, central nervous system, eyes, arms and legs are developing. Your baby's brain begins developing around the third week and continues to develop through the rest of your pregnancy. During the third trimester your baby is rapidly growing in size. If you consume an excessive amount of alcohol during these crucial times of development, you may cause problems for your baby.

Results of excessive amounts of drinking (drinking on a regular basis or binge drinking) can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Fetal Alcohol Effects. These are lifetime, irreversible effects that can cause physical, mental and neurobehavioral birth defects.

What if I drank alcohol before I knew I was pregnant? If you were not aware that you were pregnant and drank alcohol, the best thing you can do now is STOP drinking. If you stop drinking now, the chances of damage are very small.

Is there any safe amount of alcohol to drink?

There is no amount of alcohol that is safe to consume during pregnancy, but the more you drink, the more you raise your baby's chances of having problems.

Light to moderate use (2-4 drinks frequently) can cause Fetal Alcohol Effects. About 10% of infants exposed to alcohol will develop Fetal Alcohol Effects.

Heavy use (5-6 drinks or more frequently) can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. About 30-50% of infants exposed will develop Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Need help with an addiction? If you are pregnant and have an addiction to alcohol you can get help from the following organizations:

  • National Alcohol & Drug Abuse 1-800-234-124
  • National Alcohol & Drug HopeLine 1-800-NCA-CALL (622-2255)

If you would like to know more about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome you can call the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome at 1-800-66-NOFAS (666-6327)

Reprinted with permission from American Pregnancy Association