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Alcohol and Pregnancy Questions and Answers

Questions and AnswersQ: I just found out I am pregnant. I have stopped drinking now, but I was drinking in the first few weeks of my pregnancy, before I knew I was pregnant. What should I do now?

A: The most important thing is that you have completely stopped drinking after learning of your pregnancy. It is never too late to stop drinking. The sooner you stop, the better the chances for your baby's health.

It is not possible to know what harm might have been done already. Some women can drink heavily during pregnancy and their babies do not seem to have any problems. Others drink less and their babies show various signs of alcohol exposure. Many body parts and organs are developing in the first few weeks of pregnancy (weeks 3 to 8). This is the time when most women do not know they are pregnant. The best advice is to try not to be alarmed, talk to your doctor about this, and be sure to receive routine prenatal care throughout your pregnancy.


Q. What is a "drink"? What if I drink only beer or wine coolers?

A: All drinks containing alcohol can hurt an unborn baby, even beer and wine coolers. A standard drink is defined as .60 ounces of pure alcohol. This is equivalent to one 12-ounce beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (hard liquor). Some alcoholic drinks have high alcohol concentrations and come in larger containers (22-45 ounce containers). There is no safe kind of alcohol. If you have any questions about your alcohol use and its risks to your health, talk to your health care provider. You can also visit CDC’s website on alcohol.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in collaboration with CDC, has developed the FASD Prevention Tool Kit for Women's Health Care Providers, which includes an illustration of standard-sized drinks for a number of beverages. Click here to see standard-sized drinks.

Boy hugging pregnant motherQ: I drank wine during my last pregnancy and my baby turned out fine. Why shouldn't I drink again during this pregnancy?

A: Every pregnancy is different. Drinking alcohol may hurt one baby more than another. You could have one child who is born healthy and another child who is born with problems.


Q: If a woman has an FASD, but does not drink during pregnancy, can her child have an FASD? Are FASDs hereditary?

A: FASDs are not genetic or hereditary. If a woman drinks alcohol during her pregnancy, her baby can be born with an FASD. But if a woman has an FASD, her own child cannot have an FASD, unless she drinks alcohol during pregnancy.


Q: Can a father's drinking cause harm to the baby?

A: How alcohol affects the male sperm is currently being studied. Whatever the effects are found to be, they are not fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). FASDs are caused specifically by the mother's alcohol use during pregnancy.

However, the father's role is important. He can help the woman avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy. He can encourage her to abstain from alcohol by avoiding social situations that involve drinking. He can also help her by avoiding alcohol himself.


stacked shot glassesQ: I've tried to stop drinking before, but I just couldn't do it. Where can I get help?

A: If you cannot stop drinking, 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 loca tor 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.

Q: I suspect my child, or a child in my care, might have FASD. What should I do?

A: If you think your child might have an FASD, talk to your child's doctor and share your concerns. Don't wait!

If you or the doctor thinks there could be a problem, ask the doctor for a referral to a specialist (someone who knows about FASDs), such as a developmental pediatrician, child psychologist, or clinical geneticist. In some cities, there are clinics whose staffs have special training in diagnosing and treating children with FASDs. To find doctors and clinics in your area in your area visit the National and State Resource Directory from the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS).

At the same time, call your state's public early childhood system to ask for a free evaluation to find out if your child qualifies for treatment services. This is sometimes called a Child Find evaluation. You do not need to wait for a doctor's referral or a medical diagnosis to make this call.

Where to call for a free evaluation from the state depends on your child's age:

  • If your child is younger than 3 years old, contact your local early intervention system.

    To find the contact for your state, call the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) at 1-800-695-0285. Or visit the
    NICHCY website; select your state and look for the heading "Programs for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities: Ages Birth through 3."

    Learn more about early intervention »

  • If your child is 3 years old or older, contact your local public school system.

    Even if your child is not old enough for kindergarten or is not enrolled in a public school, call your local elementary school or board of education and ask to speak with someone who can help you have your child evaluated.

    If you're not sure whom to contact, call the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) at 1-800-695-0285. Or visit the NICHCY website; select your state and look for the heading "Programs for Children with Disabilities: Ages 3 through 5."

    Learn more about this process »




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