Alcohol and Pregnancy Questions and Answers
Q: 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 alcohol use after learning of your pregnancy. It is never too late to stop alcohol use during pregnancy. Because brain growth takes place throughout pregnancy, stopping alcohol use will improve the baby’s health and well-being.
If you used any amount of alcohol while you were pregnant, talk with your child’s health care provider as soon as possible and share your concerns. Make sure you get regular prenatal checkups.
Q. What is a “drink”? What if I drink only beer or wine coolers?
A: Any type of alcohol use can affect your baby’s growth and development and cause FASDs. This includes all wines, beer, and mixed drinks. 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 drinks, like mixed alcoholic drinks or malt liquor drinks, might have more alcohol in them than a 12-ounce beer. 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.
Go to the Information for Women page for a picture of the types of standard-sized drinks and the amount of alcohol they contain.
Q: Is it okay to drink a little or at certain times during pregnancy?
A: There is no known safe amount of alcohol use during your pregnancy or when you are trying to get pregnant. There is also no safe time for alcohol use during pregnancy. Alcohol can cause problems for your baby throughout your pregnancy, including before you know you are pregnant.
FASDs are preventable if a baby is not exposed to alcohol before birth.
Q: 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. Alcohol use during pregnancy might affect one baby more than another. You could have one child who is born healthy and another child who is born with problems.
Q: If I drank when I was pregnant, does that mean my baby will have an FASD?
A: If you used any amount of alcohol while you were pregnant, talk with your child’s healthcare provider as soon as possible and share your concerns.
You may not know right away if your child has been affected. FASDs include a range of physical and intellectual disabilities that are not always easy to identify when a child is a newborn. Some of these effects may not be known until your child is in school.
There is no cure for FASDs. However, identifying and intervening with children with these conditions as early as possible can help them to reach their full potential.
Q: Is it okay to drink alcohol if I am trying to get pregnant?
A: You might be pregnant and not know it yet. You probably won’t know you are pregnant for up to 4 to 6 weeks. This means you might be exposing your baby to alcohol without meaning to.
Alcohol use during pregnancy can also lead to miscarriage and stillbirth.
The best advice is to avoid any alcohol use when you start trying to get pregnant.
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 baby is exposed to alcohol during pregnancy, the baby can be born with an FASD. But if a woman has an FASD, her own child cannot have an FASD, unless she uses 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 when a baby is exposed to alcohol during pregnancy.
However, the father’s role is important. He can help the woman avoid alcohol use 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.
Q: 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.
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.
Q: I suspect my child might have an 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 visit the National and State Resource Directoryexternal icon from FASD United (formerly NOFAS).
At the same time as you ask the doctor for a referral to a specialist, call your state or territory’s early intervention program to request a free evaluation to find out if your child can get services to help. 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, Call your state or territory’s early intervention program and say: “I have concerns about my child’s development and I would like to have my child evaluated to find out if he/she is eligible for early intervention services.”
Find your state’s early intervention contact information here.
Learn more about early intervention »external icon
- 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 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.
Learn more about this process »external icon