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Alcohol and Pregnancy: Tips on Why and How to Stop Drinking Alcohol

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy: what are the risks to the baby?

A mother’s drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities for the baby that can last a lifetime. These disabilities are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Some of the behavioral and intellectual disabilities of people with FASDs include:

  • learning disabilities

  • hyperactivity

  • difficulty with attention

  • speech and language delays

  • low IQ

  • poor reasoning and judgment skills

A baby born with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), one condition in the FASD spectrum, has a small head, weighs less than other babies, and has distinctive facial features. Organs can also be affected by drinking alcohol during pregnancy, especially the heart and kidneys.






Things You Should Know about Drinking Alcohol during Pregnancy


  • There is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant.

  • Too many women continue to drink during pregnancy. About 1 in 13 pregnant women in the United States reports alcohol use in the past 30 days. And about 1 in 71 pregnant women in the United States reports binge drinking in the past 30 days (having four or more drinks at one time).

  • FASDs are completely preventable if a woman does not drink alcohol during pregnancy. Why take the risk?

Is it okay to drink a little or at certain times during pregnancy?
There is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or when you are trying to get pregnant. All drinks with alcohol can affect a baby’s growth and development and cause FASDs. A 5-ounce glass of red or white wine has the same amount of alcohol as a 12-ounce can of beer or a 1.5-ounce shot of straight liquor. All types of alcohol—even wine, wine coolers, and beer—can harm your developing baby.

Is it okay to drink alcohol if I am trying to get pregnant?
The best advice is to stop drinking alcohol when you start trying to get pregnant. This is because many women become pregnant and do not know it right away. It may be up to 4 to 6 weeks before you know for sure. This means you might be drinking and exposing your developing baby to alcohol without meaning to. Alcohol use during pregnancy can also lead to miscarriage and stillbirth.

What can I do to help myself stop drinking alcohol?

Ask your health care provider for help. Together, you can develop a strategy for you to quit drinking. Here are some additional tips:

What to say to others who offer you alcohol or expect you to drink?

  • “No thanks, I’m pregnant and I’ll pass.”

  • “I’ll have a club soda with lime.”

  • Or just say, “No thanks,” and change the subject.

Staying social without drinking

  • Hang out with people who will help you not to drink alcohol. Ask them if they would not drink alcohol around you.

  • Avoid risky places and situations such as bars and clubs. At parties, stay away from the drinks table. Stick with those who aren’t drinking.

Other helpful tips


  • If you smoke, quit. Cigarettes increase your craving to drink. Smoking is also dangerous for your developing baby.

  • Drink plenty of water.

  • Get some exercise: take a walk, dance, go for a swim.

  • Keep stress away:

    • Take a long bath

    • Meditate

    • Take some deep breaths

  • Be proud of yourself for doing all you can to have a healthy baby.

For Assistance, Referrals & More Information

The organizations and resources below can provide you with more information on FASDs and alcohol use during pregnancy:

If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant and cannot stop drinking, the following organizations and resources can help:

Developed in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)




8403 Colesville Road, Suite 1550 • Silver Spring, MD 20910 • Phone 240-485-1800 • Fax 240-485-1818www.midwife.org
© American College of Nurse-Midwives. All rights reserved.

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