Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which are physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities that last a lifetime. Often, a person with an FASD has a mix of these problems. It is recommended that women who are pregnant or might be pregnant not drink alcohol. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are completely preventable if a developing baby is not exposed to alcohol before birth.
What We Know
- Women who are pregnant or who might be pregnant should be aware that any level of alcohol use could harm their babies.
- All types of alcohol can be harmful, including all wine and beer.
- The baby’s brain, body, and organs are developing throughout pregnancy and can be affected by alcohol at any time.
- Alcohol use during pregnancy can also increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm (early) birth, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Free Resources to Help Healthcare Practices Implement Alcohol Screening and Counseling
CDC has a free guide to help staff in any primary care practice to plan and implement alcohol screening and counseling. Learn more >>
What Can Be Done to Prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
- Talk with their healthcare providers about their plans for pregnancy, their alcohol use, and ways to prevent pregnancy if they are not planning to get pregnant.
- Stop drinking alcohol if they are trying to get pregnant or could get pregnant.
- Ask their respective partners, families, and friends to support their choice not to drink during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant.
- Ask their healthcare providers or other trusted people about resources for help if they cannot stop drinking on their own.
Healthcare providers can
- Screen all adult patients for alcohol use at least yearly.
- Advise women not to drink at all if there is any chance they could be pregnant.
- Counsel, refer, and follow up with patients who need more help.
- Use the correct billing codes so that alcohol screening and counseling is reimbursable.
- CDC Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
- CDC Brochure: An Alcohol-free Pregnancy is the Best Choice for Your Baby [1.76 MB]
- CDC Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention Efforts
- CDC Alcohol and Public Health
- National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
- Page last reviewed: October 4, 2016
- Page last updated: October 4, 2016
- Content source:
- National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs