Some women encourage occasional drinking during pregnancy, supporting their opinion with the fact that their children didn’t have any health issues after birth. Even some doctors claim that having a small drink (1 unit) once or twice a week is safe.
However, the official position of major health organizations is clear: drinking alcohol during pregnancy is generally not safe.
The European Board and College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (EBCOG) states that “there’s no known dose of alcohol that is definitely safe during pregnancy.” For this reason, they recommend abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy. This recommendation is in line with the consensus opinion among leading medical authorities worldwide.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) also supports this consensus. According to ACOG, any amount of any alcoholic drink consumed at any stage of pregnancy bears potential risks for a child.
EBCOG and ACOG take this hardline stance because the effect of light drinking (1–2 units of alcohol per week) during pregnancy has not been studied enough to prove it’s safe. It is also hard to predict the impact of alcohol on any given pregnancy as each body processes alcohol differently.
As just one example, some people have a low level of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol, which means any alcohol they consume stays in their body for longer than it does in other people. If a person with low levels of this enzyme start drinking while pregnant, their fetus would be more susceptible to harm. There are also other factors that can influence to what extent alcohol will affect a fetus, such as taking medications that may aggravate alcohol’s effects.
So, are alcohol and pregnancy combinable? The general recommendation is to follow this professional advice and totally refrain from drinking while pregnant.
However, if you consumed alcohol before you found out you were pregnant, there’s no need to worry. Medical professionals agree that if a person stops consuming alcohol once they know they’re pregnant, the risk to the baby’s health is minimal.
If quitting alcohol seems to be a problem for you, it may be a good idea to contact your doctor and ask for help and advice.
Content created in association with EBCOG, the European Board & College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Flak AL, Su Su, Bertrand J, Denny CH, Kesmodel US, Cogswell ME. The Association of Mild, Moderate, and Binge Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and Child Neuropsychological Outcomes: A Meta-‐ Analysis. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2014;38:214–226.