The safest option for women is to abstain from drinking if they are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding. This is the advice from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
Alcohol and pregnancy
It’s not known how much alcohol is safe to drink when you’re pregnant. However, it is known that the risk of damage to your baby increases the more you drink and that binge drinking is especially harmful.
The safest choice for your baby is to abstain from drinking alcohol.
Pregnant women should never become intoxicated. This is because alcohol crosses from the mother’s blood stream into the baby’s blood stream. So when you drink, so does your baby.
What if you drank before you knew you were pregnant?
If you drank small amounts of alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, be reassured that the risk of harm to your baby is low. Once you know you’re pregnant it’s safest to stop drinking alcohol completely for the rest of your pregnancy and while you’re breastfeeding. This will increase your baby’s chances of being healthy.
The Risks of Alcohol on Pregnancy
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a term used to describe a range of disabilities and a continuum of effects that may arise from prenatal alcohol exposure. It includes diagnoses such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS), Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorders (ARND) and Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD).
- The most severe adverse effect from chronic or intermittent heavy maternal alcohol drinking is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).
- Other potential adverse effects include miscarriage, low birth weight, and attention and learning difficulties. Studies have also demonstrated that the unborn baby’s central nervous system is vulnerable to alcohol.
Alcohol & breastfeeding
If you are breastfeeding, it’s recommended that you don’t drink alcohol.
When you breastfeed, alcohol enters your breast milk via passive diffusion. Breast milk contains a higher concentration of water than blood into which the alcohol can distribute.
Alcohol in breast milk is at a concentration approximately 10% greater than blood.