Why Is it Risky to Drink Alcohol During Pregnancy?
Babies can be born with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) if a mother drinks a lot of alcohol during pregnancy. No one knows how much alcohol use is risky during pregnancy versus what might be "safe." So, it's always wise to be cautious and not drink any alcohol during pregnancy.
What Are the Risks to a Baby?
Alcohol use during pregnancy is one of the most common causes of physical, behavioral, and intellectual problems. It can be more harmful to a developing fetus than drug use, and also can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth. It also can increase a baby’s risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Is It OK to Have an Occasional Drink During Pregnancy?
It may seem harmless to have a glass of wine or beer, but alcohol passes easily from mother to baby. The baby’s body is less able to get rid of it, so it stays in the baby's system for a longer time than in the mother’s. This can damage the baby’s brain and other organs. Binge drinking (more than four drinks at a time) is clearly a dangerous drinking pattern, but even low or moderate amounts of alcohol can be unsafe during a pregnancy.
What if I Drank Before I Knew I Was Pregnant?
If you had a drink or two before you knew you were pregnant (as is common), don't worry too much about it. But your best bet is to not drink any more alcohol for the rest of your pregnancy.
If you have (or think you might have) a drinking problem, talk to your doctor about it. They should know how much alcohol you drank and when during your pregnancy to get a better idea of how your unborn baby might be affected. And they can help you take steps to stop drinking — for your sake and your baby's.
You also can find information on treatment options at:
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: January 2023