What to Avoid

Drinking Alcohol While Pregnant: What You Need to Know

You know drinking alcohol while pregnant is dangerous — but what if you took a sip before you knew you were pregnant, or you’re struggling with alcohol addiction? Find the information and resources you need to have as healthy a pregnancy as possible in this article.

Drinking alcohol while pregnant is one of the most dangerous things an expectant mother can do. It’s been proven time and time again that alcohol while pregnant has grave effects on an unborn baby and, in an ideal world, every expectant mother would be able to refrain from drinking alcohol before she becomes pregnant and during her entire pregnancy.

Unfortunately, we know that’s not the case. Many women in the U.S. drink alcohol at some point in their pregnancy. If you are thinking, “I drink alcohol while pregnant” or suffer from alcohol abuse while pregnant, you are not alone. A recent study from the CDC found that 1 in 10 pregnant women in the U.S. report drinking at least one alcoholic beverage in the past month.

Also know this — you have nothing to be ashamed of. What’s important is that you are looking for help to give your baby the healthiest start to life possible, despite your past actions. This makes you the best mother you can be at this time.

Whether you are currently drinking alcohol while pregnant or consumed alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, being proactive about your medical care is the first step. If you do not yet have an obstetrician, please locate one soon and set up your prenatal care appointments. At that point, your doctor will help you get the care you need.

Keep in mind: The information presented in this article should not be taken as medical advice. Please speak with a medical professional for more guidance on your personal situation.

The Dangers of Alcohol While Pregnant

While doctors have preached for decades of the dangers of drinking alcohol when pregnant, some women continue to believe that small amounts of alcohol are less harmful than the heavy drinking that medical professional warn against. The fact is: The potential effects of small amounts of alcohol on a developing baby are still not well understood.

Here’s what you need to know: There is no amount of alcohol while pregnant that has been proven safe. When you drink alcohol during your pregnancy, you take on the risks of alcohol exposure to your child, no matter how little you drink. Doctors are divided on whether it is okay for expectant mothers to drink only one or two drinks per week early on but, to be on the safe side, many would recommend staying away from alcohol entirely during your pregnancy.

Why? Because drinking alcohol when pregnant has been linked to:

  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Premature birth
  • Brain damage
  • Birth defects
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, such as:
    • Abnormal facial features
    • Low body weight
    • Poor coordination
    • Hyperactive behavior
    • Difficult with attention
    • Poor memory
    • Learning disabilities
    • Speech and language delays
    • Vision or hearing problems
    • Heart, kidney or bone problems
    • And more

Ultimately, the decision of whether to drink alcohol when pregnant will be up to you and your doctor. Whatever you choose, remember this: Forgoing alcohol during your pregnancy is a small, often manageable sacrifice that can give you the peace of mind that you are making the best possible choices for your developing child.

What to Do If You Were Drinking Alcohol While Pregnant

Almost half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned — which means, for many women, they are unaware of their condition in their early weeks of pregnancy. They may continue to drink alcohol, not knowing about their pregnancy, and be distraught when they finally learn they are pregnant. They often wonder, “I was drinking alcohol when pregnant; will my baby be okay?”

Stopping your alcohol consumption and obtaining prenatal care as soon as possible is incredibly important in this situation. Only your doctor can evaluate your pregnancy and fetus’s health, but he or she may not be able to determine if any harm was done while you were pregnant and drinking alcohol. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and abstaining from harmful substances will reduce the risk of any damage from drinking in your early days of pregnancy.

Remember, you are not a bad mother if you drank before you knew you were pregnant. Due to the nature of pregnancy, it can (and does) happen. What’s important now is doing all you can to have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

Help for Alcohol Abuse While Pregnant

Sometimes, when a woman consumes alcohol during her pregnancy, it’s more than just a glass or two drank before she knew she was pregnant. Instead, she is struggling through alcohol abuse while pregnant — trying to do what is best for her baby but fighting the mental illness of addiction.

This is a difficult situation for any woman to be in. If you are abusing alcohol or consider yourself a pregnant alcoholic, you have taken the first step to get better by finding this article and looking for help. Addiction is a terrible disease, but you should know that you are not alone and there is help.

Programs exist just for alcoholic pregnant mothers like you. You should not be shamed or mistreated for seeking treatment if you are struggling to stop drinking alcohol while pregnant. Instead, your doctor should help you get the support you need to make the rest of your pregnancy as healthy as possible. It is never too late to try to stop drinking while pregnant; the sooner you seek out help, the better.

There are a few options for expectant mothers in your situation:

  • Talk to your obstetrician about alcohol treatment programs.
  • Join an Alcoholics Anonymous support group.
  • Contact the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence’s website or helpline.
  • Locate a substance abuse treatment facility near you.
  • Consider placing your child for adoption to give them better opportunities after birth while you work toward recovery. If you are worried about being reported for drinking alcohol while pregnant, an adoption agency can help you arrange treatment with a safe medical professional while you obtain prenatal care from an understanding doctor.

We know that being pregnant and drinking alcohol is no one’s ideal pregnancy experience, but we understand that unforeseen factors can impact a woman’s ability to receive treatment or even know she is pregnant until she is a few months along. We are proud of you for seeking help and coming to this webpage. Whatever your personal situation, we encourage you to find the support you need and make the remainder of your pregnancy as healthy as possible.