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Alcohol and pregnancy

Why you need to avoid it

Posted: 16 May 2005
by ThinkBaby


Why you should avoid it
Alcohol passes through the placenta and into the fetal system, but the fetus is far less able to process alcohol than the mother, so a few drinks for you means a lot of drinks for your baby. There’s plenty of evidence that drinking too much throughout pregnancy could result in your child suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), the term for a range of problems for new babies encompassing premature birth and low birth weight, mental and learning difficulties, lower intelligence, facial deformities like harelip, hyperactivity and motor skills problems.

What’s in a unit?

One unit of alcohol is approximately

1/2 pint of ordinary strength beer or lager
A single, 25ml, measure of spirits
A small (125ml) glass of wine
A small glass of sherry

Bear in mind that ABVs (alcohol by volume) vary from drink to drink and always opt for the lowest ABV available.

If you’re having a drink at home then measure out a unit into the glasses you use, you might be surprised at how little it looks in your own glasses.

The most critical time to avoid alcohol is between weeks six and twelve, when some of the most crucial development is taking place and it’s sensible to forego alcohol completely during this time.

But drinking throughout the rest of the pregnancy can also cause FAS and the problem is in defining how much is ‘too much’. If you drink heavily during pregnancy, that is more than six units of alcohol per day, then you expose your child to a very high risk of developing FAS. If you drink between two and six units of alcohol per day the risk is lower, but still considerable.

The risk levels at a lower level of consumption aren’t properly known and the only way to eliminate the risks completely is to cut out alcohol entirely. With a lack of any definitive research, most experts and the UK’s Department of Health recommend limiting alcohol intake to a couple of units, a couple of times a week and strongly advise against drinking more than two units at any one sitting.

If you didn’t realize you were pregnant until you missed a period and have had a few drinks too many since conceiving then don’t panic, you’re unlikely to have damaged your child, but from here on in it’s time to change your drinking habits.

If alcohol forms part of your usual weekly or even daily routine, then follow our suggestions for helping you cut back or quit. Many women find that they naturally go off alcohol when pregnant in any case, so it might be a lot easier than you think.

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Discuss this story

hi there im 7 weeks pregnant its my first child and i dont rreally know whats supposed to happen can you tell me is it right for me to be getting pains in my lower abdomin like menstrual pains and could you also tell me when a midwife is supposed to see me thanks

Posted: 23/04/2007 at 10:36

Hi Sarah, congrats, im 23+1 weeks with my second , and the pains you are going on about sound normal to me i still get them now and then , they do pass but if you worried at all contact your doctor .
I contacted my doctor as soon as i found out i was pregnant and he reffered me on to my midwives, but your first appointment with the midwive is just taking your medical history and getting you your first scan . So just you relax and put your feet up because they is going to be alot of funny little pain and feelings your are going to come across from now to the birth of the little one. take care x x x x

Posted: 23/04/2007 at 11:52

Sarah, I had them too at about the same time so try to relax and enjoy the baby growing.

Posted: 23/04/2007 at 21:03

hi sarah,
im 15+4 weeks pregnant wiv my 1st baby
and i had my 1st meet with the midwife on sat 21st april i had my 12 week scan on 12 april. but early on i bled and had pains so docs thought i was misscarrying agen but its stopped now i do get pains sum times but was reassured that its my body changing and making more space. tell ur gp that you r preg and then they will do the rest. so sit bk and relax coz soon ur not going to be able to. take care


Posted: 24/04/2007 at 15:53

hi every1 whos replied thanks 4 da advice have contacted doctor sometime last week its just nervousness thats all but im fine how r u lot doin


Posted: 24/04/2007 at 16:00

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