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Alcohol Use in Pregnancy

Pregnant woman

There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant. There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink and no safe kind of alcohol. CDC urges pregnant women not to drink alcohol any time during pregnancy.

Women also should not drink alcohol if they are planning to become pregnant or are sexually active and do not use effective birth control. This is because a woman could become pregnant and not know for several weeks or more. In the United States half of all pregnancies are unplanned.

FASDs are 100% preventable. If a woman doesn't drink alcohol while she is pregnant, her child cannot have an FASD.

 

Why Alcohol is Dangerous


When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her unborn baby. Alcohol in the mother's blood passes through the placenta to the baby through the umbilical cord. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong disorders, known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Children with FASDs might have the following characteristics and behaviors:

  • Abnormal facial features, such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip (this ridge is called the philtrum)
  • Small head size
  • Shorter-than-average height
  • Low body weight
  • Poor coordination
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty in school (especially with math)
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech and language delays
  • Intellectual disability or low IQ
  • Poor reasoning and judgment skills
  • Sleep and sucking problems as a baby
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Problems with the heart, kidney, or bones

 

Learn more about FASDs »


Surgeon General's Advisory

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Download and print this advisory in English and Spanish

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How Much Alcohol is Dangerous


There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant.

 

When Alcohol is Dangerous


There is no known safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy.  Drinking alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy can cause the baby to have abnormal facial features.  Growth and central nervous system problems (e.g., low birthweight, behavioral problems) can occur from drinking alcohol anytime during pregnancy. The baby’s brain is developing throughout pregnancy and can be damaged at any time.

If a woman is drinking alcohol during pregnancy, it is never too late to stop.  The sooner a woman stops drinking, the better it will be for both her baby and herself. 

 

Get Help!


If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant and cannot stop drinking, get help!  Contact your doctor, local Alcoholics Anonymous, or local alcohol treatment center. 

Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a treatment facility locator.  This locator helps people find drug and alcohol treatment programs in their area.

Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.)
Alcoholics Anonymous® is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. Locate an A.A. program near you.

 

More Information


More questions about drinking alcohol during pregnancy?
Visit our Questions & Answers page »

Want to learn more about what CDC is doing to prevent alcohol-exposed pregnancies?
Visit our Preventing Alcohol Use During Pregnancy page »  



 

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Only 1 in 6 adults has ever had a health professional talk to them about alcohol.

 

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  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

    Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

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    Atlanta, GA 30333
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