Alcohol and pregnancy

Some people will tell you that having the odd drink when you’re pregnant is okay.

In fact, there's no known safe limit of drinking during pregnancy.

The safest option is to stop drinking when you’re trying to get pregnant or as soon as you know you’re pregnant.

How alcohol can harm your baby

Your baby's developing all the way through your pregnancy. Alcohol can be harmful at any stage.

Drinking alcohol:

  • damages your baby's developing cells which can affect how their brain and organs develop and how they look
  • makes it more likely you'll have a miscarriage, or your baby will be born early or underweight
  • can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

Even small amounts of alcohol can cross over from your body into your baby. The more you drink, the greater the possible harm.

Drinking a lot in a single occasion (sometimes called binge drinking) is especially harmful

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)

If you drink while pregnant your baby could develop a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). This is a term used to describe a range of alcohol-related birth defects.

About 2 in every 100 children and young people in the UK has FASD, but it’s totally preventable.

FASD may not always be detected at birth but can cause problems later in life, including.

  • problems with memory and learning
  • finding it hard to make sense of the world and manage in social situations or with everyday life choices
  • sensory difficulties, such as being overly or under sensitive to light, sound or touch

More about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

Now's the time to stop drinking

Lots of pregnancies aren’t planned, so you might not have known you were pregnant for a while.

If you've been drinking small amounts of alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, the risk is likely to be low. The first and most important thing to do is stop.

When you go to your first antenatal appointment, your midwife will ask you whether you drink alcohol and if so how much.

Be honest with your midwife or GP if you have been drinking during pregnancy, you can speak safely and openly to them.

Stopping drinking when pregnant

For lots of women, stopping drinking when pregnant can be difficult - sometimes harder than they thought. The social pressure to have a drink can also be huge and can make it harder to say no.

With the right support and a bit of planning, you can do it. Talking to your midwife is the first step towards getting the right support for you and your baby.

Support your partner

Dads and partners can support a healthy, alcohol-free pregnancy by:

  • not drinking alcohol around their partner
  • trying activities that don’t involve alcohol - you could go swimming or get outdoors and go for a walk
  • trying non-alcoholic drinks, such as smoothies and flavoured and fizzy water

Also on NHS inform

Other health sites