Alcohol in Pregnancy
The NHS recommends that pregnant women or women trying to conceive should completely avoid drinking alcohol.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises women to avoid drinking in the first three months of pregnancy especially, due to the increased risk of miscarriage. To minimise risk to the baby, if you choose to drink after three months, you should not drink more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week and you should not get drunk.
When you drink, alcohol passes from your blood, through the placenta, to your baby. Your baby's liver is one of the last organs to develop fully, so it can’t process alcohol as well as you can. This means that you will be dangerously exposing your baby to greater amounts of alcohol for longer periods of time.
Alcohol and Conception
Women trying for a baby
We don’t know what alcohol levels will reduce your chances of getting pregnant, but we do know that if you drink heavily it can disrupt your periods and you may find it harder to get pregnant. If you’re trying for a baby, you should avoid alcohol to increase your chances of conceiving and also to prevent any risks to your baby should you conceive.
Men trying for a baby
Men should also think about drinking fewer units when trying for a baby. Alcohol may damage the cells that produce sperm and affect your liver. This can upset your hormone levels and fertility. Heavy drinking can also cause temporary impotence.
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
Throughout your whole pregnancy, drinking heavily can lead to your child developing a group of problems known as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Children with FAS have:
- Restricted growth
- Facial abnormalities
- Life-long learning and behavioural disorders
Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the name given to lesser forms of the damage to your growing baby. FASD can be particularly difficult to spot in infants and might only be identified after serious learning or behavioural problems develop during your child’s school career.