Dangers and effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy (2023)

Pregnant women and patients wishing to have children should completely abstain from alcohol until the birth of the child. Despite differing guidelines, there is simply no safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.1Consumption of alcohol of any kind during pregnancy can cause premature labor, miscarriage, stillbirth, and a variety of developmental, physical, mental, and emotional disabilities and disorders in the baby, collectively known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).2If a woman thinks she is pregnant, she should stop drinking and abstain from alcohol during pregnancy.

Is Alcohol Safe During Pregnancy?

No alcohol is safe during a trimester of pregnancy, be it wine, beer or spirits. When a pregnant woman consumes an alcoholic beverage, like any other liquid or food she consumes, it passes to her fetus. Some people mistakenly believe that it's okay to drink late in pregnancy when the fetus is almost fully formed; However, exposure to alcohol has adverse effects on brain development during pregnancy.3Major national medical organizations including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Surgeon General, as well as medical societies in other countries including the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, the National Health Service of UK, and countless others others recommend absolute abstinence during pregnancy.1

How does alcohol get on the baby?

Alcohol crosses the placenta through the umbilical cord. Not only is alcohol harmful to the developing baby, when a pregnant woman drinks heavily, the high blood alcohol levels can also affect important nutrients that cross the placenta and reach the baby.4

(Video) The Effects Alcohol Can Have On Your Pregnancy

After a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, it only takes about 2 hours for the fetus's blood alcohol level to reach that of the mother.1

Alcohol in any amount stays in the fetus' system longer than in the mother's system because fetal alcohol metabolism is slower.1So if a pregnant woman drinks frequently or in large quantities, the fetus will be exposed to alcohol for a long time.

Can Alcohol Cause Birth Defects?

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is the most common preventable cause of birth defects. Birth defects are structural changes in the body that are present at birth.5Alcohol can act as a teratogen, which refers to any agent that causes fetal abnormalities during pregnancy.1Maternal alcohol consumption at any stage of pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of birth defects and developmental problems, collectively known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).1,6

Alcohol's effect on physical and structural development can manifest itself in a number of birth defects, including:2,7

  • Abnormal facial features, which may include narrow-set eyes, a flat ridge between the nose and upper lip (known as the philtrum), a flat bridge of the nose, a thin upper lip, and a snub nose, among others.
  • Small head circumference.
  • Height and weight below average.
  • vision or hearing problems.
  • Bone, heart and kidney problems.

Can Alcohol Cause a Miscarriage?

Studies suggest that alcohol consumption during pregnancy progressively increases the risk of miscarriage. For example, in pregnant women who drank 5 or fewer drinks per week, they found that each additional drink per week increased their risk of miscarriage by 6%.10

Can an Alcoholic Have a Healthy Baby?

Although it is possible for a woman withAlcohol Use Disorder (AUD)In order to have a healthy baby, a woman's alcohol consumption during pregnancy almost always has a negative effect on the developing fetus. Even light alcohol consumption at any stage of pregnancy can cause the baby to develop FASDs, which can cause a number of serious birth defects and contribute to cognitive impairment or other developmental disabilities.11Öeffects of alcoholIt may be more severe in mothers who are older, have health problems, or smoke or use other substances.11

(Video) Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy

Just as every pregnancy is different, so is every developing baby. Therefore, equal drinking before birth can affect one baby more than another - even babies born to the same mother. Also, some symptoms of FASDs, such as B. intellectual or behavioral problems, appear only in early childhood.12The extent to which alcohol affects a developing fetus can depend on several factors, including:13

  • How often and how much does the mother drink.
  • The mother's metabolism.
  • Genes and Genetic Susceptibility.
  • If the mother drank during pregnancy.
  • The development of the fetal brain when the mother drank.

Alcohol and Pregnancy: Facts and Statistics

Some statistics about the prevalence of alcohol consumption during pregnancy may come as a surprise. In a three-year study - from 2015 to 2018 - pregnant women between the ages of 12 and 44 were asked about their consumption of alcohol and other substances. Here are some of the discoveries:14

  • One in five pregnant women in their first trimester reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days, and 10.5% of them reported excessive alcohol consumption (4 or more drinks on one occasion) during the same period. Women who reported binge drinking had an average of 4.5 binge eating over the 30 days.
  • Women consume less alcohol as their pregnancy progresses. Of those surveyed in the second and third quarters, 4.7% said they had been drinking in the past 30 days; 1.4% reporteddrunkenness.
  • Approximately 40% of pregnant respondents who reported drinking in the past 30 days also reported using other substances, including tobacco, marijuana, opioids, cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants, methamphetamines, and more.
  • Globally, 1 in 67 women who consumed alcohol during pregnancy will give birth to a child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, or FAS. This equates to approximately 119,000 children born with FAS each year.15FAS is the most severe form of FASD. People with FAS have growth problems, central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction, and facial deformities or abnormalities.7

Find alcohol rehab and detox centers near you

while lookingAlcohol rehabilitation during pregnancyMake sure the rehab center has special facilities and sufficient qualifications to treat addiction in pregnant women. Discover our rehab centers and facilities across the country below.

  • California
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  • Nevada
  • Rhode Island
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Signs that a pregnant woman is drinking

Most women reduce or stop drinking alcohol as soon as they realize they are pregnant. Data suggests that most women (85% of 1,500 respondents in one study) change their drinking habits after learning about pregnancy, with the baby's well-being cited as the main reason.16On the other hand, there are women with AUDs who may continue to drink even after learning they are pregnant. These women may have two or more of themCriteria for an AUD.

Fearing that disclosing their alcohol use could result in civil or criminal penalties, many pregnant women who continue to drink alcohol can take one or more of the following actions:18

(Video) Dangers of Drinking Alcohol While Pregnant

  • Isolate yourself from others and avoid interactions with family and friends.
  • Hide or deny the pregnancy.
  • Schedule your prenatal appointments so that persistent substance use does not show up in urine samples.
  • Skip doctor appointments or skip prenatal care altogether.

How to talk to a woman who is drinking while pregnant

Many women who drink while pregnant find that the amount they consume is safe. They may live with or live with others who consume similar amounts of alcohol and consider it "normal."16They may not be aware that consuming alcohol of any kind endangers the fetus.

If your friend or loved one is pregnant or trying to conceive and you are concerned that they are drinking, let them know that you are worried and concerned. Be careful to avoid judgments and labels like "alcoholic," and be compassionate in your speech. Provide information you've learned—perhaps reference material from this article—and encourage them to talk to their doctor or healthcare provider.19Pregnancy is often a powerful motivator for a woman to change her drinking habits, and research suggests that even brief behavioral counseling is neededinterventionswith women who engage in risky alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of an alcohol-exposed pregnancy.11If additional support is needed, encourage your loved one to join a mutual aid group (egAlcoholics Anonymous) or look at a treatment program.19

Alcohol dependence and AUD in pregnant women are relatively rare. When medical advice and brief behavioral interventions are unsuccessful in controlling her alcohol use, it is important that she receive it

expert advice and additional medical support to stop drinking. If medical supervision is deemed necessary, treatment can be carried out in one sessioninpatient alcohol rehabilitation, where it can be administered by doctors and nurses who can monitor the health of both mother and child during treatment.20

Tips for avoiding alcohol during pregnancy

It can be difficult or even dangerous to go cold turkey and quit drinking, especially if you have been in the habit for a long time or are frequently in social situations where people are drinking. Since it's imperative that you stop drinking as soon as you find out you're pregnant, you'll benefit from a strategy to stay away from alcohol. Consider the following tips:21

  • If there's a time of day when you're more likely to drink alcohol, think ahead and plan other activities to fill the time, have fun, or relax.
  • Get moving – for example, go for a walk, do prenatal yoga, or go swimming.
  • Treat yourself to self-care like meditation.
  • Try drinking drinks with fruit, adding flavor enhancers to the water, or drinking sparkling water.
  • Avoid social gatherings where people may be drinking too much.
  • Remove all alcohol from your home and ask family and friends to help you keep alcohol out of your home.
  • Join a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
  • Get professional help from a doctor or therapist.

Is It Illegal to Drink During Pregnancy?

In recent years, several states have passed guidelines on how to deal with drinking during pregnancy. Many of these laws are supportive in nature; H. they provide information, treatment and services for pregnant women. There are a handful of states that have criminal laws for maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. These policies vary in detail, but include a degree of intervention. Some allow pregnant women to be involuntarily committed to treatment or protective custody in response to alcohol use. Despite the differences, the guidelines aim to protect the fetus by restricting the pregnant woman's actions and behavior.22There is limited evidence on the impact and effectiveness of punitive measures.23

(Video) Dangers of alcohol during pregnancy

How Does Alcohol Affect Birth Control?

Alcohol does not reduce the effectiveness of hormonal birth control methods such as the pill, intrauterine device (IUD), hormonal implant, ring, injection, patch, or emergency contraception. However, the effects of alcohol consumption and intoxication can cloud a person's judgment and increase the risk of non-consumptionbirth controlor lead to ineffective contraceptive use (e.g. skipping the pill at the usual time, which may increase the chance of ovulation and pregnancy).24,25Among college-age women, 13% reported excessive drinking and ineffective contraceptives; 31% reported excessive alcohol consumption and inconsistent condom use – all factors that can lead to an unwanted pregnancy.24

Can you drink while trying to conceive?

As previously mentioned, it is safer to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy, from conception to delivery. There is currently insufficient data to definitively understand the physiological effects of alcohol consumption on female fertility. However, studies indicate that chronic and/or prolonged use can lead to changes in ovulation and the menstrual cycle.22Additionally, evidence suggests that even moderate consumption can negatively impact the effectiveness of in vitro fertilization (IVF).26

Can Alcohol Affect Breastfeeding?

Exposure to alcohol through breast milk can affect a child's development, growth, and sleep patterns.27Although experts recommend avoiding alcohol while breastfeeding, there is no evidence that moderate consumption (1 drink/day) harms the baby, especially if the mother waits at least 2 hours to breastfeed. Anything beyond that can affect the baby, affect milk production (which can impact baby's sleep patterns and early development), and impair the mother's judgment, making it harder for her to care for the baby.27

It is important to note that an alcoholic drink can still be detected in breast milk for up to 3 hours after consumption. The total time it takes for alcohol to be metabolized and undetectable in breast milk depends on a variety of factors, including:27

  • The number of drinks consumed.
  • How quickly the drinks were consumed.
  • Whether drinks were consumed with food or on an empty stomach.
  • How much does the mother weigh.
  • How fast your body can break down alcohol.

Expressing or pumping breast milk does not reduce the alcohol content in breast milk.27

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(Video) The Effects of Alcohol during Pregnancy (Documentary, 2004)


  1. Dejong, K., Olyaei, A. & Lo, J.O. (2019).alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Clinical Obstetrics Gynecology,62(1), 142-155.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
  3. Charness, Michael E., M.D., Riley, Edward P., Ph.D., Sowell, Elizabeth R., Ph.D. (2016).Drinking During Pregnancy and the Developing Brain: Is A Lot Safe? Trends in the cognitive sciences, 20(2), 80-82.
  4. Sebastiani, Giorgia, Borrás-Novell, Cristina, Cassanova, Miguel Alsina, Tutusaus, Mireia Pascual, Martínez, Silvia Ferrero, Roig María Dolores Gómez and García-Algar, Oscar. (2018).The effects of alcohol and drugs on maternal nutritional profile during pregnancy.Nutrient,10(8), 1.008.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.What are birth defects?
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs): The Basics.
  7. Denny, L., Coles, S., & Blitz, R. (2017, 15. Oktober).Fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. American family doctor, 96(8), 515-522.
  8. Goodlett, Charles R., Ph.D, and Horn, Kristin H.Mechanisms of alcohol-induced damage to the developing nervous system.National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Alcohol-free pregnancy is the best choice for your baby.
  10. Sundermann, A. C., Zhao, S., Young, C. L., et al. (2019, 1. August).Alcohol use in pregnancy and abortion: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 43(8), 1606-1616.
  11. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.alcohol and pregnancy.
  12. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021).alcohol and your pregnancy
  13. Maier, Susan E., Ph.D. and West, James R., Ph.D. (2001).Alcohol-related birth patterns and defects. alcohol research and health,25(3), 168-174.
  14. England, Lucinda J., M.D., Bennett, Carolyne, MPH, Denny, Clark H., Ph.D, Honein, Margaret A., Ph.D, Gilboa, Suzanne M. Ph.D, Kim, Shin Y., MPH , Guy Jr., Gery P., Ph.D, Tran, Emmy L., Pharm.D, Rose, Charles E., Ph.D, Bohm, Michele K., MPH, Boyle, Coleen A., Ph.D . (2020, 7. August).Alcohol use and concomitant use of other substances in pregnant women aged 12 to 44 years - United States, 2015-2018. Weekly morbidity and mortality report,69(31), 1.009-1.014.
  15. Popova, S., Lange, S., Probst, C., Gmel, G., & Rehm, J. (2017, March 1).Estimating the national, regional, and global prevalence of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and fetal alcohol syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis.Lancet Global Health,5(3): e290-e299.
  16. DeVido, J., Bogunovic, O., & Weiss, R.D. (2015).Alcohol use disorders in pregnancy. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 23(2), 112-121.
  17. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2011 Aug). Risky use and alcohol dependence: obstetric and gynecological implications. Obstetrics & Gynaecology,118, 383-388.
  18. Stone, R. (2015, February 12).Pregnant women and drug use: fear, stigma, and barriers to care. health and justice, 2.
  19. National Institute on Aging.Here's how you can help someone you know who has a drinking problem.
  20. Bhuvaneswar, Chaya G., MD, Chang, Grace, MD, Epstein, Lucy A., MD, und Stern, Theodore A., MD (2007).Alcohol consumption during pregnancy: prevalence and impact.Primary Care Anhang zum Journal of Clinical Psychiatry,9(6), 455-460.
  21. March of Dimes.alcohol during pregnancy.
  22. Alcohol Policy Information System.Pregnancy and alcohol, civil society engagement.
  23. Woodruff, Katie, Dr. PH and Roberts, Sarah C.M. PH (2019)."Alcohol during pregnancy? Nobody else does”: the use of evidence by state legislators in formulating guidelines on drinking during pregnancy.Journal of Alcohol and Drug Studies,80(3), 380-388.
  24. Ingersoll KS, Ceperich SD, Nettleman MD, Johnson BA. (2008).Risk of use and contraceptive effectiveness among university women.psychology and health, 23(8):965-981
  25. Peters, Linda S., Oakley, Deborah, Potter, Linda S., and Darroch, Jacqueline E. (1998).Women's efforts to prevent pregnancy: Consistency of oral contraceptives.Instituto Guttmacher,30(1), 19-23.
  26. Heertum, K. V. & Rossi, B. (2017).Alcohol and fertility: how much is too much? Fertility Research and Practice, (3)
  27. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, February 9).Is it safe for mothers to breastfeed their children if they have consumed alcohol?


1. Drinking Alcohol Before You Knew You Were Pregnant: What You Need to Know
2. The Impact of Drinking Alcohol at Difference Times During Pregnancy
(SACCounty Healthy Beginnings)
3. Alcohol in pregnancy - What is a safe amount to drink?
(Telethon Kids Institute)
4. The Shocking Effects Of Drinking Whilst Pregnant
(Journeyman Pictures)
5. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment.
(Medical Centric)
6. What Can Alcohol Do To A Foetus?
(FASD Awareness)
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