Is drinking alcohol safe whilst pregnant?
The UK Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines recommend to not consume any alcohol if you are pregnant, or trying to become pregnant, in order to keep the risks to your baby at a minimum. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink whilst pregnant, therefore not drinking alcohol at all is the safest approach.
How does alcohol affect the unborn baby?
Drinking alcohol during any stage of pregnancy can put your baby at risk, and this risk is heightened the more you drink.
Drinking alcohol can have a range of impacts on the baby, including lifelong conditions that are known under the term of ‘Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders’ (FASD). FASD can result in physical, mental, and behavioural problems, including lifelong learning disabilities. Heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause the baby to develop Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), a serious condition that can be easily prevented. FAS can cause:
- Restricted growth
- Facial abnormalities
- Learning and behavioural disorders
If you drink whilst pregnant, the alcohol passes from your blood and through the placenta to your baby. A baby’s liver does not develop and mature until the latter stages of pregnancy, and your baby will not be able to process alcohol as well you can. Too much exposure to alcohol can affect their development.
Research has shown that drinking, particularly during the first three months of pregnancy, can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and low birth weight.
How to avoid alcohol whilst pregnant?
If you are out with friends or colleagues who you would usually drink with, you might feel pressured to drink, particularly if they are unaware of your pregnancy. You can avoid pressure by explaining that you are driving, or simply trying to be healthy, and continue to drink soft drinks throughout the night. You can also ask your partner to support you by cutting down their alcohol intake too, and to not drink alcohol around you.
If you are trying to conceive, you are advised to stop drinking at this stage. This is to protect the baby if you are unaware you are pregnant, and alcohol can also affect fertility in both men and women.
If you are concerned about how much alcohol you have consumed whilst pregnant, you should contact your GP or midwife.