There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant. There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink and no safe kind of alcohol. CDC urges pregnant women not to drink alcohol any time during pregnancy.
Women also should not drink alcohol if they are planning to become pregnant or are sexually active and do not use effective birth control. This is because a woman could become pregnant and not know for several weeks or more. In the United States half of all pregnancies are unplanned.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are 100% preventable. If a woman doesn't drink alcohol while she is pregnant, her child cannot have an FASD.
Why Alcohol is Dangerous
When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her unborn baby. Alcohol in the mother's blood passes through the placenta to the baby through the umbilical cord. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong disorders, known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Children with FASDs might have the following characteristics and behaviors:
- Abnormal facial features, such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip (this ridge is called the philtrum)
- Small head size
- Shorter-than-average height
- Low body weight
- Poor coordination
- Hyperactive behavior
- Difficulty paying attention
- Poor memory
- Difficulty in school (especially with math)
- Learning disabilities
- Speech and language delays
- Intellectual disability or low IQ
- Poor reasoning and judgment skills
- Sleep and sucking problems as a baby
- Vision or hearing problems
- Problems with the heart, kidney, or bones
How Much Alcohol is Dangerous
There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant.
When Alcohol is Dangerous
There is no known safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy. Drinking alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy can cause the baby to have abnormal facial features. Growth and central nervous system problems (e.g., low birthweight, behavioral problems) can occur from drinking alcohol anytime during pregnancy. The baby’s brain is developing throughout pregnancy and can be damaged at any time.
If a woman is drinking alcohol during pregnancy, it is never too late to stop. The sooner a woman stops drinking, the better it will be for both her baby and herself.
If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant and cannot stop drinking, get help! Contact your doctor, local Alcoholics Anonymous, or local alcohol treatment center.
Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Page last updated: October 6, 2010
Current as of January 2012