Effects of Drinking Alcohol While Pregnant

Drinking any amount of alcohol during pregnancy puts an unborn baby at risk of adverse health effects.1 Despite this, approximately 1 in 10 women drink during pregnancy.2 The harmful effects of alcohol on a baby are preventable. Engaging with professional healthcare efforts, including assistance to help curb drinking if needed, can help decrease some of these risks, while ensuring that you and your baby are well taken care of.

This page will explore alcohol use during pregnancy, the effects of drinking while pregnant, and how to get help if you’re struggling with alcohol use.

Is Any Alcohol Safe During Pregnancy?

No, there is no known amount or type of safe alcohol use during pregnancy.3 The CDC and U.S. Surgeon General recommend women completely abstain from all alcohol use if they are considering pregnancy, might be pregnant, or are pregnant.2,3

Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause lifelong problems for the baby, including physical, mental, and behavioral health issues.2,3

The potentially harmful effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy can be prevented with abstinence. That isn’t always easy, especially for someone who compulsively drinks alcohol. Treatment is available to help you curb uncontrollable drinking which can lower the risk of harming your baby.2,3

How Does Drinking Affect the Baby?

Drinking alcohol while pregnant is a leading, preventable cause of birth defects in the U.S. When a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol passes from a woman’s blood through the placenta and to the baby. The baby does not have a fully developed liver and cannot process alcohol the same way an adult can.3

Exposure to alcohol while pregnant increases the risk of premature birth and low birth weight.1,5

Drinking alcohol while pregnant also exposes a baby to the risk of developing fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). FASDs are a set of lifelong conditions that may occur in children who are exposed to alcohol before birth. These may be physical, behavioral, or learning problems.6

There is a range of diagnoses along the spectrum of FASDs that depend on the particular symptoms. Some diagnoses include:6

  • Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD): There may be 1 or a combination of problems with hearing, bones, kidneys, or the heart.
  • Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND): This diagnosis encompasses symptoms such as problems with behavior and learning and intellectual disabilities. There may be difficulties with attention, judgment, math, memory, and poor impulse control.
  • Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (ND-PAE): Diagnosed when a child has problems in 3 areas, which include thinking and memory, behavior, and difficulties with day-to-day living.
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS): This diagnosis is known to be at the most severe end of the FASD spectrum.

What Is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can involve several symptoms.6 Possible expressions of FAS include:6

  • Abnormal facial features.
  • Growth problems.
  • Central nervous system abnormalities.
  • Difficulty with memory, attention span, hearing, vision, or communication.
  • Problems in school and social difficulties with others.

Does Drinking While Pregnant Affect the Mother?

Drinking while pregnant may also adversely affect the mother. Aside from the increased risk of having a child born with birth defects or developmental issues, drinking alcohol while pregnant may lead to a greater risk of stillbirth and miscarriage.1 Any of these outcomes can present difficulties for the mother.

Can You Drink While Trying to Conceive?

Experts advise it’s best to abstain from drinking alcohol while trying to become pregnant because a woman may inadvertently expose the fetus to alcohol if they drink before knowing that they are pregnant.2

Women who drink before knowing they are pregnant are encouraged to stop drinking after finding out they’re pregnant.8

Getting Help to Stop Alcohol Use While Pregnant

Stopping compulsive alcohol use can be difficult for anyone but it can be especially challenging for pregnant women with problematic drinking due to a persistent stigma and guilt associated with alcohol use during pregnancy that can make it hard to ask for help.1

However, admitting you need help to quit drinking during pregnancy is courageous, allowing you to gain the support you—and your child—deserve. Specialized treatment can address problematic alcohol use as well as other health and social issues you may be experiencing.1

If you or a loved one are pregnant and want to stop drinking but are having trouble quitting, help is available. Many facilities are equipped to help pregnant women get sober. Choosing to get treatment for alcohol use disorder while pregnant can change your life and your baby’s life for the better.

Treatment for alcohol use disorder may involve multiple levels of addiction treatment, including the following:9

  • Medical detox can be particularly helpful with alcohol use disorder withdrawal symptoms because of the potential for life-threatening symptoms. Enrolling in professional help can provide medical support for mothers and their babies.
  • Inpatient treatment consists of 24/7 treatment in a residential or hospital setting. Patients undergo a treatment program that helps them build skills to resist relapse and create a life away from alcohol.
  • Outpatient treatment allows a person to live at home while being treated and can range in intensity. Some people may participate in daily programs, others just a few times per week or less.
  • Ongoing recovery support is necessary for most people with substance use disorders. After a formal treatment program, maintaining peer support and a continued effort toward sobriety can help sustain their recovery.

Oxford Treatment Center in Mississippi and many other AAC facilities can accept pregnant women for treatment at the medical director’s discretion.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Mississippi

Oxford Treatment Center provides both outpatient and inpatient drug and alcohol rehab in Mississippi. The premier alcohol rehab center is located on 110 beautiful, wooded acres, offering a tranquil environment for healing.

Using evidence-based therapies, highly skilled clinicians customize treatment to ensure you receive the care and support you need.

Admissions navigators are available 24/7 to answer your questions about treatment types, rehab admissions, rehab insurance coverage, and rehab payment options.

It’s not too late to get help for you and your baby. Call today and speak to someone who understands what you’re going through and can offer assistance.

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