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Alcohol and Pregnancy

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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Alcohol and Pregnancy

During pregnancy, women hear a lot about good nutrition—getting enough folate, enough iron, and enough calcium, just to name a few. But a healthy pregnancy also depends on avoiding a few things as well. Alcohol is one of these things.

A severe result of excess alcohol intake during pregnancy is ]]>fetal alcohol syndrome]]> . Babies with this condition have physical and mental birth defects that last a lifetime. However, smaller amounts of alcohol can also have lasting, negative effects on your baby. Alcohol can interfere with your baby's growth. Alcohol can also cause physical and behavioral problems for your child that can last for the rest of his or her life.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Children with fetal alcohol syndrome may be born small. In addition, they have difficulty with many basic functions and tasks, such as the following:

  • Eating and sleeping
  • Seeing and hearing
  • Following directions and learning how to do simple things
  • Paying attention and learning in school
  • Getting along with others
  • Controlling their behavior

Most children with fetal alcohol syndrome need medical care for their whole lives. They also need extra help at school and may need to go to a special school.

Questions about Alcohol and Pregnancy

1. Can I drink alcohol if I am pregnant?
No. Do not drink alcohol when you are pregnant. When you drink alcohol, it is passed on to your baby. Everything you drink, your baby also drinks.

2. Is any kind of alcohol safe to drink during pregnancy?
No. Drinking any kind of alcohol when you are pregnant can hurt your baby. Alcoholic drinks are beer, wine, wine coolers, liquor, and mixed drinks.

3. What if I drank during my last pregnancy and my baby was fine?
Every pregnancy is different. Drinking alcohol may hurt one baby more than another. You could have one child that is born healthy, and another child that is born with problems.

4. Will these problems go away?
No. The damage to a developing baby caused by alcohol will last for a child's whole life. Children with severe problems may not be able to take care of themselves as adults. They may never be able to work or do things on their own.

5. What if I am pregnant or trying to become pregnant and have been drinking?
If you drank alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, stop drinking now. You will feel better and your baby will have a good chance to be born healthy. If you want to get pregnant, do not drink alcohol. You may not know you are pregnant right away. Alcohol can hurt a baby even when you are only 1 or 2 months pregnant.

6. How can I stop drinking?
There are many ways to help yourself stop drinking. First, do not keep alcohol at home. Second, if you tend to drink when you socialize with friends and family, tell your friends and family that you need to quit while you are pregnant and ask for their support. Have a glass of juice, water, or lemonade instead of an alcoholic drink. If this is difficult, avoid situations where you would normally drink.

If you cannot stop drinking, get help. You may have a serious problem. There are many alcohol treatment programs that can help you stop drinking. Your healthcare provider, social worker, or religious leader can help find a program to help you. Even if you have been through a treatment program before, try it again. There are programs just for women. You can get help from a doctor, nurse, social worker, religious leader, or clinics and programs near you.

See the Resources below for more information on dealing with a drinking problem.


Alcoholics Anonymous

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Last reviewed July 2003 by ]]>Richard Glickman-Simon, MD]]>

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.