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).
CDC has a free guide to help staff in any primary care practice to plan and implement alcohol screening and counseling.
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
- FASDBrochure_final-P pdf icon[2.0 MB, 2 Pages, Print Only]
- CDC’s Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention Efforts
- CDC Alcohol and Public Health
- National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS)external icon
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrationexternal icon
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholismexternal icon