If you’re pregnant, trying to get pregnant or think you may be pregnant, stay away from alcohol. Drinking alcohol at any time during pregnancy can cause serious health problems for your baby. If a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy, the alcohol in her blood quickly passes through the placenta and the umbilical cord to her baby.
According to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (also called NOFAS), “When you drink alcohol, so does your developing baby. Any amount of alcohol, even the alcohol in one glass of wine, passes through the placenta from the mother to the growing baby. Developing babies lack the ability to process or metabolize alcohol through the liver or other organs.”
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases your baby's chances of:
- Preterm birth. This is when your baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies may have serious health problems at birth and later in life.
- Brain damage and problems with growth and development.
- Birth defects, like heart defects, hearing problems or vision problems.
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (also called FASDs). Children with FASDs may have a range of problems, including intellectual and developmental disabilities. They also may have problems or delays in physical development. FASDs usually last a lifetime. If you don’t drink alcohol, it’s completely preventable.
- Low birthweight (also called LBW). This is when a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. Having low birthweight can cause serious health problems for some babies.
- Miscarriage. This is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- Stillbirth. This is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
FASDs are always caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy. So to prevent FASDs, don’t drink alcohol when you’re pregnant.
What can you do?
Don’t drink alcohol if you’re pregnant or can get pregnant. This may be hard because alcohol is often part of social activities, like weddings, birthday parties or sports events. You may be used to having a glass of wine with dinner or at the end of a busy day.
Here are some tips to help you avoid alcohol during pregnancy:
- Think about when you usually drink alcohol. Plan to drink other things, like fruit-infused water, sparkling water or plain water. Use a fun straw or put an umbrella in the glass to make it seem more festive.
- Stay away from situations or places where you usually drink, like parties or bars.
- Get rid of all the alcohol in your home.
- Tell your partner and your friends and family that you’re not drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Ask them to help and support you.
- If you need help to stop drinking, talk to your health care provider. He can help you find resources to help you stop.
For more information on how to have a healthy pregnancy, visit marchofdimes.org.