Drinking alcohol at any stage during pregnancy has been linked to complications such as miscarriage, premature birth and low birth-weight.
The Chief Medical Officers Guidelines
- If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all.
- Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to your baby, the more you drink the greater the risk.
- The risk of harm to the baby is likely to be low if a woman has drunk only small amounts of alcohol before she knew she was pregnant or during pregnancy.
- Women who find out they are pregnant after already having drunk during early pregnancy, should avoid further drinking. It is unlikely in most cases that your baby has been affected but if you are worried about how much you have been drinking when pregnant, talk to your doctor or midwife.
How does alcohol affect my unborn baby?
When you drink, alcohol passes from your blood through the placenta to your baby. Your baby cannot process alcohol well, and exposure to alcohol can seriously affect their development. Alcohol can cause your baby to be:
- Born prematurely
- A low birth weight
- Small for its gestational age
Drinking during pregnancy can cause your baby to develop a serious condition called Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). FASD can cause problems with:
- Learning and behaviour
- Joints, bones, muscles and some organs
- Managing emotions and developing social skills
- Hyperactivity and impulse control
- Communication, such as problems with speech
Evidence suggest that the more you drink, the greater the risk will be to your baby of developing FASD.
What if I drank alcohol before I knew I was pregnant?
If you were drinking at moderate levels, it is likely that the risk of harm to the baby is likely to be low, so try not to worry. However, if you are worried you should talk to your midwife or GP. The important thing to remember is that avoiding alcohol once you find out you are pregnant will help keep your baby safe.
Tips on avoiding alcohol when you’re pregnant
Many pregnant women find they naturally go off the taste of alcohol. However, if you haven’t and want to avoid it, what can you do?
- Tell your friends and family. People understand that you shouldn’t drink whilst pregnant and therefore can support you by not offering to buy, pour, or prepare you drinks.
- It can help if your partner stops drinking too, or at least cuts down themselves when you’re pregnant.
- You may also want to avoid bars and clubs and other places associated with drinking alcohol. If you are socialising, most people should understand that you’re pregnant and avoiding alcohol.
- There are plenty of delicious non-alcoholic drinks out there so now’s your chance to try them.
- If you drink a lot and are worried about alcoholism and how to cut down, talk to your midwife or family doctor. Alternatively, you might prefer to call our services.
Tools and resources
There are support tools and helpful websites which are useful to gain a deeper understand of this subject and offer practical tools to help you manage your substance use. Some of these links take you to websites that are not based in the UK, so they may use spelling and terminology that is less familiar, but still very relevant to this subject areas:
Recovering Mothers Anonymous:
The Circle of Hope: A mentoring Network for Birth Mothers: