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.
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.
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.
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.