Alcohol Use During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman refusing wine

There is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant. There is also no safe time for alcohol use during pregnancy. All types of alcohol are equally harmful, including all wines and beer.

FASDs are preventable if a baby is not exposed to alcohol before birth.

Why Alcohol is Dangerous

Alcohol in the mother’s blood passes to the baby through the umbilical cord. Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. These disabilities are 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 with 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 »

How Much Alcohol is Dangerous

There is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy.

When Alcohol is Dangerous

There is no safe time for alcohol use during pregnancy. Alcohol can cause problems for the baby throughout pregnancy, including before a woman knows she is pregnant. Alcohol use 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 alcohol use anytime during pregnancy. The baby’s brain is developing throughout pregnancy and can be affected by exposure to alcohol at any time.

It is never too late to stop alcohol use during pregnancy. Stopping alcohol use will improve the baby’s health and well-being.

Get Help!

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

SAMHSA Treatment Locator — FindTreatment.govexternal icon
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.)external icon
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. programexternal icon near you.

More Information

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

Want to learn more about what CDC is doing to prevent alcohol-exposed pregnancies?
CDC’s Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention Efforts »

CHOICES: Preventing Alcohol Exposed Pregnancies »