Alcohol and Pregnancy 

What to expect when you’re expecting.

Having a healthy baby is important to you. What many women experience when they are holding their baby for the first time are feelings of pride, satisfaction and achievement because they made healthy choices for the sake of themselves and their baby. We hope this information helps you do that.

What every expectant parent wants is a healthy baby

Some research findings show that babies born to women who take alcohol when they are pregnant may have brain structure changes that persist into early adolescence.

By making some basic changes what are the benefits for you and your baby?

FOR YOU

Overall:

  • The knowledge that you are doing your best to give your baby the best start.

Physical

  • Reduced risk of premature birth
  • Reduced risk of miscarriage
  • Better sleep pattern

Psychological/Social/Financial

  • Improved mood
  • Improved sense of well being
  • Save money

YOUR BABY

Physical

  • Reduced risk of premature birth
  • Reduced risk of miscarriage
  • NO risk of FASD (Remember NO alcohol-NO Risk)
  • Improved growth and development
  • Reduced risk of damage to developing organs

Psychological

  • Reduced risk of learning and behavioural disorders

The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) guidance (Jan 16) is that pregnant women should not drink any alcohol at all. 

  • If you are pregnant or planning pregnancy, the safest option is not to drink alcohol.
  • This is to keep the risks to your baby to a minimum. The more you drink the greater the risk to your baby.

What if I’ve already drunk alcohol in pregnancy?

If you find out you’re pregnant after having drunk alcohol early in the pregnancy you should avoid drinking further. Official advice is that it is unlikely in most cases that the baby would be affected.

If you’re worried about how much you’ve been drinking when pregnant, talk to your doctor or midwife.

What do you want for your baby?

Alcohol Advice

Alcohol is dangerous to your baby at anytime during your pregnancy and not just in the first 3 months. When a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol in her blood passes freely through the placenta into the developing baby’s blood.  Because the baby does not have a fully developed liver, it cannot filter out the toxins from the alcohol, like an adult can. Instead, the alcohol circulates in the baby’s blood system causing damage to the organs and nervous system.

What is FASD?

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term for lifelong alcohol related disorders and birth defects caused by alcohol exposure to the baby in the womb. The mother does not have to be drinking heavily for this to occur.

Symptoms of FASD may include:

  • Learning difficulties
  • Problems with emotional development and behaviour
  • Memory and attention disorders
  • Hyperactivity
  • Facial deformities
  • Being small, at birth and throughout life.

Staying in control

Here are three ways to keep your drinking under control if you’re trying to have a baby.

  1. Stand firm. If you’re out with friends or colleagues, you may be under pressure to drink, especially if you haven’t announced your pregnancy yet. Tell them you’re driving, on a health kick, or simply stick to soft drinks.
  2. Start slowly. If you are trying to conceive, try cutting down your units gradually. Start off by reducing your drinking each day, and then try having a few alcohol-free days a week.
  3. Get support. Ask your partner to help you by cutting down their drinking as well. If you are trying to conceive this is vital, as drinking impairs sperm count and heavy drinking can cause temporary impotence.

Further information

Your GP can help you figure out if you should make any changes to your drinking, and offer help and advice along the way. Or talk to your midwife about alcohol and pregnancy.

Give your baby the best start possible

Pregnancy is a turning point in life, a time for new beginnings. A healthy start is important – for you and your baby. Choose not to drink any alcohol during your pregnancy

Frequently asked questions:

 

What might happen if I drink alcohol when I am pregnant?

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause permanent birth defects and brain damage to your baby. To help your baby be as healthy as possible, stop drinking alcohol.

Is there a safe time to drink alcohol?

There is no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy. Your baby’s brain is developing throughout pregnancy. The safest choice during pregnancy is no alcohol at all. In fact, it is best to stop drinking before you get pregnant.

What if I had a couple of drinks before I knew I was pregnant?

Many pregnancies are not planned. Having a small amount of alcohol before you knew you were pregnant is not likely to harm your baby. You can help your baby by stopping drinking.

Is it OK to have a few drinks at a special event?

It is best not to drink any alcohol during your pregnancy. There is no known safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy.

Are some types of alcohol less harmful?

Any type of alcohol can harm your baby (beer, coolers, wine or spirits). Binge drinking and heavy drinking are very harmful to an unborn baby.

Do children with FASD grow out of their problems?

There are many things teachers and parents can do to help children with FASD. However, FASD is a lifelong problem. Teens or adults with FASD may have:

-depression
-trouble with the law
-drug or alcohol problems
-difficulty living on their own
-trouble keeping a job
What if the father drinks alcohol?

If the father drinks alcohol, it will not cause FASD. However, fathers should also try to be as healthy as possible before and during pregnancy.

How can others help?

Partners, family, and friends can help pregnant women to stop drinking by being supportive and encouraging.

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