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The bottom line is that we don’t know with certainty where the boundary lies between acceptable and non-acceptable alcohol use during pregnancy. Some studies have shown no effects of alcohol on birth outcomes, whereas other, more recent studies have shown that drinking can cause birth defects and other health issues. Exposure to alcohol from all types of beverages–including beer wine, hard seltzer, hard cider, alcopops, distilled spirits (liquor), and mixed drinks–is unsafe for developing babies at every stage of pregnancy. A glass of wine, a can of beer, and a shot of liquor all have about the same amount of alcohol. Cocktails (mixed drinks) may have twice as much alcohol as these other beverages.

is it safe to drink alcohol while pregnant

Alcohol enters both your bloodstream and your baby’s bloodstream at the same concentration, where it can interfere with the development of critical organs, structures and systems. Although about 1 in 9 expecting moms in the United States say they’ve had an alcoholic drink within the last 30 days, according to the CDC, there’s strong research supporting the recommendation to abstain from drinking completely while pregnant. Ultimately, that means it’s prudent to pass up any alcohol for the duration of your pregnancy (though you can certainly ask your own practitioner for his or her advice). Unfortunately, drinking any alcohol while you’re pregnant is not considered safe. For example, venues in New York City that serve alcohol are required by law to post a sign warning of the dangers that alcohol can pose to a developing fetus, but employees of that bar or restaurant must serve pregnant women alcohol if they order it. Some pregnant women tell me they feel judged when they have a drink.

Drinking alcohol while pregnant

Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), which are physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities that last a lifetime. More than 3 million US women are at risk of exposing their developing baby to alcohol because they are drinking, having sex, and not using birth control to prevent pregnancy. About half of all US pregnancies are unplanned and, even if planned, most women do not know they are pregnant until they are 4-6 weeks into the pregnancy.

There may be a slight chance that someone may try and organize a civil action against a person who does not offer or serve alcohol to a pregnant woman at a private party, but this is highly unlikely, and most likely would not result in a justifiable lawsuit. Some pregnant people craving a cocktail might turn to a non-alcoholic beer or wine as the safe option. But some non-alcoholic beverages contain alcohol, meaning that mocktail with that non-alcoholic rosé might not be a good idea.

Having a drink during pregnancy is a personal decision

Although the government is advising pregnant women to be cautious, their warnings are not based on precise scientific evidence. While many states have regulations or statutes that might be used to prosecute pregnant women who use alcohol, according to the data provided by NIAAA and other organizations, actual convictions are rare. Enjoying alcohol is incredibly popular so pregnant people shouldn’t feel guilty or like they’re the only one who accidentally drank before realizing they were pregnant. At the same time as you ask the doctor for a referral to a specialist, call your state or territory’s early intervention program to request a free evaluation to find out if your child can get services to help. You do not need to wait for a doctor’s referral or a medical diagnosis to make this call.

This study did not focus on mental impairment caused by alcohol exposure during pregnancy. Studies have confirmed that children of binge-drinking parents have especially severe cognitive and behavioral problems compared to children of non-binge-drinking parents. This exposes the developing fetus to the same levels of alcohol that cause hangover in adults—at a stage is it safe to drink alcohol while pregnant where the brain is still growing and has less capacity for self-repair. Binge drinking (defined by the CDC as having more than four drinks within two hours) increases the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) far beyond what would be seen in a casual drinker. From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.


Conversation about whether or not this is appropriate – let’s come to this later – opened up discussion on other scenarios that might get you cancelled, sacked, arrested, or frowned upon at the very least. Actress Kristen Bell recently revealed she sometimes lets her young daughters drink non-alcoholic beer. «Judge me if you want, I’m not doing anything wrong,» she said. To be safe, all women are advised against drinking any amount of alcohol.

  • Truly specific research around drinking alcohol in very early pregnancy is pretty tricky.
  • I tell patients I think one to two drinks a week is unlikely to be harmful – but that I can’t guarantee that there are no possible risks.
  • If you drink during pregnancy, you place your baby at risk of fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • More recent research has found different results, including a 2020 review of 23 studies that examined the effects of alcohol intake in pregnancy.

But even babies exposed to smaller amounts of alcohol in utero can develop FASD or a number of mental, physical, or behavioral problems. People with alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder can have intellectual disabilities and issues with behavior and learning. School is often challenging and they have difficulty with math, memory, attention, judgement, and poor impulse control. Reach out to a healthcare provider who can refer you to an addiction specialist, rehab, or other services. National helplines like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration line may be able to assist.

What if I drank during my last pregnancy and my child was fine?

The AAP points out that prenatal exposure to alcohol is «the leading preventable cause of birth defects and intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities.» Some women felt that the CDC was being condescending and interfering in their right to make decisions about how they live their lives. The authors of the study concluded that more large-scale studies are needed to investigate the effects of low and moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy – and that for now it’s best for pregnant women to avoid alcohol. The best way to avoid drinking alcohol while pregnant is to drink plenty of water.

FASDs are a group of conditions seen in children whose parents consumed alcohol during pregnancy. When a soon-to-be parent consumes alcohol during pregnancy, the alcohol passes from the parent’s blood to the fetus through the umbilical cord. Once the alcohol is in the fetus’s bloodstream, it affects every part of the body, including the organs and central nervous system. A couple of drinks a couple of times very early in pregnancy, when you didn’t even know you were pregnant, are unlikely to cause serious harm. When you do find out you’re expecting, you’ll know to steer clear of alcohol for the rest of your pregnancy.

How Does Alcohol Affect Birth Control?

Birth defects result in structural changes to the body present at birth. A teratogen is an agent capable of triggering fetal abnormalities. While Drinkaware advises against alcohol-free alternatives for children and for mums-to-be, pregnancy charity Tommy’s – which is guided by NHS advice – says they are safe for expectant mums as long as they are truly alcohol-free, so only up to 0.05%.