The information provided below is for readers based in the United States of America. Readers outside of the United States of America should seek the information from local sources.

What is alcohol?

Alcohol as a consumed substance usually refers to ethyl alcohol (ethanol), a particular type of alcohol. Used in beverages, alcohol is produced through the fermentation of fruits or grains and has pharmacological effects, meaning that it affects the body like a drug. Generally, people consume alcohol because of its effects in the brain, but because alcohol works on the brain it is also addictive.

Is there a safe amount of alcohol that I can drink during pregnancy?

There have been occasional studies suggesting that light drinking during pregnancy may be safe, but health authorities and researchers have not established, or recognized, any safe level of alcohol consumption for pregnant women.

Can alcohol make it harder for me to get pregnant?

Possibly. Research suggests that the probability of a woman getting pregnant decreases as the amount of alcohol that she consumes increases. Additionally, your male partners fertility may suffer as a consequence of his alcohol use.

Can alcohol cause a miscarriage?

Yes. Maternal alcohol consumption increases the risk of spontaneous abortion (miscarriage).

Can alcohol consumption during my pregnancy cause a birth defect?

Yes. Maternal alcohol consumption causes a range of abnormalities in the baby that are grouped into a disease category called fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). This includes neurodevelopmental abnormalities, behavioral problems, growth problems, and fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which can include abnormalities in the cardiovascular system (heart and great vessels), musculoskeletal system, eyes and optic nerves, and kidneys.

Are there long-term consequences to my baby from my alcohol use?

Yes, birth defects in major organ systems, including the heart and brain, can lead to permanent physical and mental disabilities, and even death.

I just found out I am 6 weeks pregnant and last weekend drank alcohol. Will my baby have a problem?

Although no safe level of alcohol has been established for pregnant women, evidence suggests that the risk comes from repeated exposures. Thus, if you had a drink one day while you were already pregnant, your baby is probably not at higher risk of birth defects.

Is binge drinking on only some days of the week as risky as drinking everyday but at lower amounts?

Binge drinking and regular drinking both can be harmful. No differences in the outcome of pregnancy have been shown based on the particular patterns of drinking alcohol.

Is it ok to drink some alcohol after the first trimester?

No. Drinking at any point during pregnancy can harm the developing baby’s brain and other organ systems. It also increases the risk of spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), preterm birth, stillbirth, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Can a baby go through withdrawal after birth?

Yes. It is possible for a baby to go through withdrawal from alcohol, in which case the newborn may require treatment that involves medications.

How will I know if alcohol has hurt my baby?

You wouldnt know in all cases, as effects of maternal drinking are a matter of risks and probabilities. Given that particular organs are damaged as part of FAS, severe cases will make it clear that the problem was the maternal alcohol.

Is there any hope for a baby who has been exposed to alcohol throughout pregnancy?

Effects of maternal drinking are a matter of risks and probabilities, and so a neonate born to an alcohol-consuming mother can be perfectly healthy. However, if you do drink, youre stacking the cards against your child.

Can I drink alcohol while breastfeeding?

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you minimize alcohol consumption to one drink per day and that you wait at least two hours after consuming alcohol before nursing.

What if the father of the baby consumes alcohol?

Modest alcohol consumption by the father prior to formation of the sperm that forms the child probably is not harmful.

Resources for alcohol use in pregnancy:

For more information about alcohol during pregnancy, contact (800-994-9662 [TDD: 888-220-5446] or check the following links:

  • March of Dimes: Alcohol During Pregnancy
  • National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Light Drinking During Pregnancy


Read the whole report
Last Updated: 11-05-2018
General information

It is very common for women to worry about having a miscarriage or giving birth to a child with a birth defect while they are pregnant. Many decisions that women make about their health during pregnancy are made with these concerns in mind.

For many women these concerns are very real. As many as 1 in 5 pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and 1 in 33 babies are born with a birth defect. These rates are considered the background population risk, which means they do not take into consideration anything about the health of the mom, the medications she is taking, or the family history of the mom or the baby’s dad. A number of different things can increase these risks, including taking certain medications during pregnancy.

It is known that most medications, including over-the-counter medications, taken during pregnancy do get passed on to the baby. Fortunately, most medicines are not harmful to the baby and can be safely taken during pregnancy. But there are some that are known to be harmful to a baby’s normal development and growth, especially when they are taken during certain times of the pregnancy. Because of this, it is important to talk with your doctor or midwife about any medications you are taking, ideally before you even try to get pregnant.

If a doctor other than the one caring for your pregnancy recommends that you start a new medicine while you are pregnant, it is important that you let them know you are pregnant.

If you do need to take a new medication while pregnant, it is important to discuss the possible risks the medicine may pose on your pregnancy with your doctor or midwife. They can help you understand the benefits and the risks of taking the medicine.

Ultimately, the decision to start, stop, or change medications during pregnancy is up to you to make, along with input from your doctor or midwife. If you do take medications during pregnancy, be sure to keep track of all the medications you are taking.

Read articles about Alcohol