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Alcohol and Pregnancy

The safest choice is to not drink any alcohol when pregnant or even when you might get pregnant. The best time to stop drinking is before you get pregnant.  When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her unborn baby. Studies have shown that alcohol may cause physical and/or mental problems in the growing baby.

 

When you are pregnant, there is:

No safe time to drink alcohol
No safe type of alcohol
No safe amount of alcohol

What is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)?

Drinking while pregnant puts you at risk of giving birth to a baby with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a diagnostic term used to describe impacts on the brain and body of individuals prenatally exposed to alcohol. FASD is a lifelong disability.

Individuals with FASD will experience some degree of challenges in their daily living, and need support with:

  • motor skills,
  • physical health,
  • learning, memory,
  • attention,
  • communication,
  • emotional regulation, and
  • social skills to reach their full potential.

Each individual with FASD is unique and has areas of both strengths and challenges.

FASD is Preventable

Alcohol rapidly reaches your baby through your bloodstream. The amount of alcohol that can harm a growing baby is not known. The effect of alcohol on a growing baby depends on the amount, pattern and timing of drinking alcohol during pregnancy and the health of the pregnant woman. Drinking a lot of alcohol in a short time period is especially bad for the growing baby.

 

Common Questions about Alcohol and Pregnancy

Are there types of alcohol that are less harmful?
No. All types of alcohol are harmful to your growing baby. Alcohol is not safe to drink while pregnant.

What if I drank alcohol before I knew I was pregnant?
A safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy is not known. It is never too late to stop drinking. If you are concerned about the amount of alcohol that you drank before knowing you were pregnant, speak to your healthcare provider or find community resources.

Is it safe to drink alcohol during specific times?
There is no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy.  Most organ growth is completed a few weeks after the first trimester. Brain growth continues during pregnancy and after birth. Exposure to alcohol any time in the pregnancy can affect the baby's brain.

Does FASD last a lifetime?
Yes, the affects of FASD last a lifetime. There are many things that families can do to support people with FASD. Please contact your healthcare provider to discuss the supports available. 

Does drinking by the biological father affect his unborn baby?
When a biological father drinks alcohol, it does not have any effect at the time of conception and does not affect the unborn baby. However, a father can help by supporting a woman's choice not to drink when they are pregnant and by not drinking alcohol himself.

I am not pregnant yet, but I am concerned about my drinking.
You can always speak to your healthcare provider, but there are ways to get information on-line  For example, use an on-line tool to help you assess your drinking. CheckYourDrinking.net Be as accurate as possible in your answers. 

I am worried because I can't stop drinking on my own.
You are not alone. Find support.

 
Date of creation: December 1, 2012
Last modified on: November 8, 2019
 
 

References

1Canada FASD Research Network.(2018) Policy Action Paper: Toward a Standard Definition of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Canada Retrieved from
https://canfasdblog.com/2019/07/10/policy-action-paper-toward-a-standard-definition-of-fetal-alcohol-spectrum-disorder-in-canada/
2Best Start. (2018). Be safe: Have an alcohol free pregnancy. Retrieved from
https://www.alcoholfreepregnancy.ca/pregnant-or-planning-a-pregnancy/
3Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada. (2011). Alcohol in Pregnancy. Retrieved from
http://pregnancy.sogc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/PDF_alcoholandpregnancy_ENG.pdf