Alcohol and Pregnancy Don't Mix

During pregnancy, everything you consume affects your baby. Learn why you shouldn't drink alcohol and how to get help if you need it.

Good parenting starts when you're pregnant. The decisions you make during those 9 months can help give your baby a healthy start.

One healthy choice all moms-to-be should make is to avoid alcohol. It can lead to such problems as miscarriage or preterm birth. And it can cause other serious harm to your baby as well.

Any kind of alcohol can hurt your baby. There is no difference between wine, beer, liquor, and wine coolers. And no amount of alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy.

Drinking for two
When you drink, alcohol passes through the placenta to the fetus. The mother's liver can process alcohol, but the baby's liver isn't fully developed, so it breaks down alcohol more slowly. This means the baby has a higher blood-alcohol level than the mother - and it stays high for longer.

Women who abuse alcohol during pregnancy have a higher risk of having a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome. This is a preventable cause of mental retardation. Fetal alcohol syndrome cannot be cured.

Children with this syndrome show a pattern of behavioral, mental, and physical problems. They may:

  • Be born particularly small and fail to grow normally
  • Have trouble eating and sleeping
  • Have vision and hearing problems
  • Have difficulty following directions and paying attention
  • Have social problems

A time for change
Pregnancy is a great chance to make lifestyle changes that are good for you and your baby. As your baby grows inside you, he or she is affected by everything you put in your body. That includes food, drinks, medicines, and herbal supplements. Some of these can be very dangerous to the life growing inside of you, so it's important to learn what is and is not safe during pregnancy.

In addition to avoiding alcohol, here are some other steps you can take to support a healthy pregnancy, mommy, and baby:

  • Talk with your doctor about a healthy exercise routine.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Try to eat a healthful diet.
  • Do not use illicit drugs.
  • Do not smoke or otherwise use tobacco, and avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Check with your doctor before using any medicines, herbs, or supplements.

Getting help
If you find it hard to stop drinking, talk with your doctor. You can also get help from the following organizations:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous: www.aa.org
  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence: 800-NCA-CALL or visit www.ncadd.org
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: 301-443-3860 or visit www.niaaa.nih.gov
  • Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator: 800-662-HELP or visit www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov