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Drinking And Its Effects On Pregnancy


What you drink and eat becomes more crucial than ever when you are pregnant. In order to promote your baby’s growth and maintain good health it is imperative to not just eat right but to drink wise as well. Yes! We are talking about drinking alcohol during pregnancy. 

If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy and you are looking for information about drinking alcohol while pregnant then you have already begun taking the right step in the direction of having a healthy pregnancy as we know alcohol and pregnancy do not go along together.

Alcohol should be absolutely avoided by expectant mothers and those attempting to conceive until after the baby is born. There is just no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, despite varying recommendations. Pregnancy problems such as premature labour, miscarriage, stillbirth, and a variety of developmental, physical, 

mental, and emotional impairments and problems in the foetus can all result from alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Women who think they could be pregnant should quit drinking and abstain from doing so the entire time that they are pregnant.

Is Any Alcohol Safe for Pregnant Women?

No alcohol, including wine, beer, and spirits, is safe to consume throughout any trimester of pregnancy. Alcohol in early pregnancy is equally dangerous as 

drinking it any time later during pregnancy.  Alcoholic beverages pass through to the fetus exactly like other liquids or foods do when a pregnant woman eats or drinks them. Some people have the misconception that drinking wine during pregnancy or  in the third trimester of pregnancy, when the baby is almost fully developed, is acceptable. However, alcohol consumption has negative effects on brain development throughout pregnancy.

How Does Alcohol Pass To The Baby?

Alcohol passes through the umbilical cord and into the placenta. When a pregnant woman drinks heavily, her high blood alcohol levels can also prevent vital nutrients from reaching the baby through the placenta, which is harmful for the baby’s development.

It only takes around 2 hours for the fetus’ blood alcohol level to match the mother’s after a pregnant woman drinks alcohol. Because fetal alcohol metabolism is slower than that of the mother, alcohol in any proportion stays in the fetus’s bloodstream for a longer period than it does in the mother.

Therefore, the fetus is exposed to alcohol for a long time if a pregnant woman drinks regularly or in large amounts.

Alcohol In Pregnancy Causes Birth Defects

Birth defects are primarily caused by alcohol drinking while pregnant, which is entirely avoidable. Birth defects are structural alterations to the body that are present at birth. Any substance that results in fetal abnormalities during 

pregnancy is referred to as a teratogen, which includes alcohol. Mother’s drinking alcohol in pregnancy  is linked to an increased risk of birth defects such as:

  • Abnormal facial characteristics which include wide-spaced eyes, a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip, a flat nasal bridge, a thin upper lip, and an upturned nose, among others.
  • Below average height and weight.
  • Small head circumference.
  • Bone, heart, and kidney issues.
  • Problems with eyesight or hearing.

Effects Of Alcohol During Pregnancy 

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases your baby’s chances of having these problems:

Premature birth –  This is when your baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature infants may experience severe health issues both at birth and later in life.

Issues with growth and development and brain damage

Low birthweight – (also called LBW). This happens when a newborn weighs less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces at birth.

Miscarriage – This happens when a pregnancy is less than 20 weeks and a baby passes away in the womb.

Stillbirth – This happens when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Alcohol consumption puts pregnant women at danger as well. Women who drink while pregnant may also put their own health at risk and may develop a number of pregnancy problems, due to effects such as:

  • vomiting and dehydration
  • high blood pressure
  • nutritional deficiency
  • gestational diabetes.

Can An Alcoholic Mother Have A Healthy Baby?

A woman with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) can still give birth to a healthy child, but drinking while pregnant almost always has a harmful influence on the fetus.

Any amount of alcohol usage during pregnancy, no matter if it’s drinking alcohol in early pregnancy or at a later stage, can cause the baby to have 

FASDs, which can lead to a variety of catastrophic birth abnormalities and exacerbate other developmental problems like cognitive impairment.

Alcohol may have stronger impacts on moms who are older, have health issues, smoke, or use other drugs.

What Is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder ?

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term used to describe a range of permanent and lifelong conditions that can result from a baby being exposed to alcohol during pregnancy.

Pregnancy-related alcohol exposure can have a range of negative effects on the unborn child, from minor to severe.  Depending on the parts of the brain that alcohol exposure has caused the most harm to, people with FASD will have strengths and weaknesses in various areas.

Problems due to FASD include:

  • Growth and birth defects – heart and kidney defects, joint and limb abnormalities, distinctive facial features and growth problems.
  • Intellectual problems – problems  with speech and language, issues with memory and learning, cognitive deficits, difficulty with judgment, reasoning or understanding consequences of actions.
  • Behavioral problems – hyperactivity and increased irritability in addition to social and emotional issues.

FASD may not be noticeable at birth and frequently goes unrecognized until childhood and adolescence, when social and behavioral issues start to show up more clearly. 

People with FASD may struggle in school, have trouble finding work, be socially excluded, struggle with their mental health, abuse alcohol and other drugs, and frequently and frequently interact with the legal system.

Does Alcohol Affect Breastfeeding?

Alcohol exposure through breast milk may harm a baby’s growth, development, and sleeping habits. While physicians advise against drinking while nursing, there is no proof that moderate drinking (one drink per day), especially if the mother waits at least two hours before nursing, is harmful to the infant. Anything over that could have an impact on the infant, interfere with milk production (which could have an impact on an infant’s sleep habits and early development), and impair the mother’s judgment, making it more difficult for her to provide for the baby.

It’s important to remember that even 3 hours after consuming one alcoholic drink, it can still be found in breast milk. There are many variables that can affect how long it takes for alcohol to be completely digested and undetectable in breast milk, including:

  • The number of drinks taken.
  • How quickly the drinks were consumed.
  • Whether the drinks were taken on an empty stomach or with food.
  • What is the mother’s weight
  • How fast her body can metabolize the alcohol.

Expressing or Pumping the breast milk does not reduce the amount of alcohol in the mother’s milk.

How To Avoid Alcohol While Pregnant

If you’ve had the habit of drinking for a long time or you are often in such social situations where people are drinking then It may be difficult or even dangerous to stop drinking alcohol at once.

Therefore, You’ll benefit from having a plan to avoid alcohol as you must immediately stop drinking after learning you are pregnant. Think about the following tips:

  • If there is a particular time of day that you are more likely to consume alcohol, consider alternatives to pass the time, have fun, or unwind.
  • Walk, do prenatal yoga, or go swimming as examples of exercise.
  • Engage in self-care activities like meditation.
  • Try consuming fruity beverages, flavoring your water, or sipping sparkling water.
  • Avoid going to social events where there could be binge drinking.
  • Ask family and friends to support you by not bringing alcohol into your home and remove all alcohol from your residence.
  • Become a member of a support group, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
  • Seek professional help from a doctor or therapist.

Is Alcohol Safe While Trying to Conceive?

It’s best to avoid alcohol during pregnancy, from conception until delivery, as was previously established. At this time, there isn’t enough information to know with certainty how drinking alcohol affects a woman’s capacity to conceive. Studies suggest that persistent and/or chronic drinking, however, may alter menstruation and ovulation cycles.  Additionally, data points to the possibility that even moderate alcohol consumption could harm the success of in vitro fertilization.  

Does Alcohol Affect Your Partner’s Fertility And Chances Of Pregnancy? 

According to studies, regular alcohol consumption drastically lowers sperm quality. This lessens a couple’s chances of becoming pregnant. Additionally, it is believed that a man’s  alcohol use prior to conception may affect the child’s future intellectual and physical development.

It is advised to cut back on or completely stop drinking alcohol three months before attempting to conceive a child., 

 Additionally, women are less likely to consume alcohol while pregnant if their partners do as well. Saying no to alcohol can be a lot simpler for pregnant women when they have support from others around them.

Drinking Alcohol Before You Knew You Were Pregnant

If you’ve recently discovered you’re pregnant, you may have also found that you were drinking alcohol in early pregnancy without realizing it.

Unintentional exposure to substances like alcohol in the early stages of pregnancy, which is most likely to occur before you even take a pregnancy test, is one of the reasons many individuals try to prepare ahead of time for pregnancy. 

The risks of light drinking before finding out you’re pregnant are not entirely understood, yet they could have an impact on the growing fetus. 

But research also indicates that very little alcohol in very early pregnancy is unlikely to present a significant risk.

To avoid any potential danger, it is advised that you quit drinking as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Since giving up alcohol can be difficult for some people, you may wish to speak with a healthcare professional for support.

Get Help To Quit Alcohol

Get assistance if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant and you can’t stop drinking! Get in touch with your doctor, the local branch of AA, or an alcohol rehabilitation facility.

Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.)

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their knowledge, courage, and hope in order to address their shared issue and aid in the recovery of others from alcoholism. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, and is open to anyone who has a desire to stop drinking. Find a local A.A. programme and start attending their meetings to help yourself while quitting alcohol.


  • Can I have an ‘occasional’ drink or a few sips when pregnant?

Doctors and researchers advise pregnant women to abstain from alcohol consumption to lower the chance of injury to their unborn child. While the mother may not notice the consequences of a few sips or a single drink, the baby does as all alcohol consumed by the mother travels directly through the placenta to the unborn child.

Although it may be challenging to abstain from alcohol while pregnant, as there is no safe amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy, choosing to abstain reduces the chance that the baby would suffer any potential harm.

  • Is any type of alcohol safer than another?

No. Whatever it is—beer, wine, wine cooler, liquor, or spirits—doesn’t matter. Alcohol in the first trimester of pregnancy or any other period during the pregnancy is never safe, regardless of the type.

  • Can Alcohol Cause A Miscarriage?

According to studies, drinking alcohol while pregnant gradually increases the risk of miscarriage. For example, researchers discovered that the chance of miscarriage increased by 6% for each additional drink per week in pregnant women who drank 5 or less drinks per week.


The greatest advice, according to doctors, is to plan your pregnancies. When attempting to get pregnant, stay away from alcohol, even if it’s right after ovulation. You may unwind and stop worrying about any possible exposure thanks to this.

Even so, if you’ve recently found out you’re expecting and realize you drank a little in the first few weeks, don’t be hard on yourself. When in doubt, discuss with your doctor what you can do to help ease your worries for the rest of your pregnancy.

Srujana Mohanty
She is the Managing Editor of Cogito137, one of India’s leading student-run science communication magazines. She's been working in scientific and medical writing and editing since 2018, also associated with the quality assurance team of scientific journal editing. Majored in Chemistry with a minor in Biology at IISER Kolkata, Srujana loves doodling and watching series.


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