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When you drink alcohol, so does your baby. Alcohol can affect the baby’s growth, especially the brain. There’s a risk that your baby may have a range of life-long problems, known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Drinking alcohol when you’re pregnant can also increase the chance of premature birth, or losing your baby through a miscarriage or stillbirth.
No, alcohol in your blood stream passes easily thought the placenta and your baby is exposed to the same blood alcohol levels as you. Your baby can’t break down the alcohol like you can.
There is no known safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy. It’s advised not to drink any alcohol when pregnant.
Yes, all types of alcoholic drinks can harm your baby, including beer, wine, cider, spirits and RTDs.
No, alcohol can harm your baby’s development at any stage of the pregnancy. It can cause problems from the early weeks of pregnancy, before a woman even knows she is pregnant, through to the end of pregnancy.
Yes, if you are trying to get pregnant, it’s best not to drink alcohol. Alcohol can harm a baby from conception onwards.
It is never too late to stop drinking. This will increase the chance of your baby being born healthy. If you are concerned talk to your midwife or doctor.
The advice from the Ministry of Health, the Health Promotion Agency and other health sector agencies is to stop drinking alcohol if you could be pregnant, are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant (alcoholpregnancy.org.nz). There is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
While breastfeeding it's best to be alcohol free. Alcohol enters your breast milk and passes to your baby. This can affect your baby’s growth and development. If you choose to drink when breastfeeding, plan ahead. Only breastfeed when there’s no alcohol in your system. It takes about two hours for your body to breakdown one standard drink of alcohol. If you drink more than this you will need to wait longer before breastfeeding.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a term used to describe the different effects that can occur in a child when a mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy.
Some children affected by fetal alcohol exposure have distinct facial features, poor growth and abnormalities of the brain and its functions. Other children with FASD may not look different but still experience significant difficulties with behaviour, learning and development caused by damage to the brain from alcohol. Problems may be seen after birth, or they may not be noticeable until the child is school-age. A child with FASD faces lifelong challenges.
FASD can only be caused by a mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy. The brain and central nervous systems of the developing baby continue to grow throughout pregnancy and can be affected by alcohol at all stages of pregnancy.
Harm to the baby is more likely to occur with frequent heavy drinking. However, some studies have found associations between lower amounts of alcohol and a baby’s development.
Not all babies are affected in the same way by alcohol, so there is no way of knowing whether it is safe to drink. Cutting our alcohol altogether avoids any possible harm.
No. The effects of fetal alcohol exposure are permanent. The effects of fetal alcohol exposure are often not obvious at birth.
Not everyone who drinks alcohol in pregnancy has a baby with FASD. International statistics suggest that 1% to 5% of live births each year will be FASD affected. In New Zealand it is estimated that between 600 and 3,000 babies are born every year with FASD (Sellman, D. and Connor, J. (2009). In utero brain damage from alcohol: a preventable tragedy. NZMJ 122(1306):6.).
FASD can be prevented by not drinking any alcohol if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant. If you are pregnant and have been drinking alcohol, the best thing you can do is stop drinking right now.