Alcohol & Pregnancy


Drinking alcohol at any stage during pregnancy can be very harmful to a baby.  When you drink, alcohol enters the bloodstream and some will pass through the placenta to your baby; this can affect how the baby grows and develops.  Although we can process a unit of alcohol in about an hour it is estimated that alcohol will stay in the baby’s system for up to three times longer.  An unborn baby’s body and organs are still developing and so are at risk of alcohol related damage at all stages of pregnancy. Drinking more than the recommended amount while pregnant has been linked to a range of harms that can include:

Damage that is caused through a parent’s drinking whilst pregnant is usually permanent.  By avoiding alcohol while trying to conceive and during pregnancy these harms can be prevented.

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

If you drink alcohol during pregnancy a group of problems can develop known as Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).

FASD is the name given to a group or range of problems in babies whose mothers drank alcohol during their pregnancy.  The term spectrum is used because there are a range of physical, psychological and intellectual conditions and because an individuals condition can range from mild to severe.

These condiditions include:

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is probably the most commonly recognised name for these conditions: it is thought that the range of FASD can go unrecognised or be misdiagnosed; for example as ADHD or autism:

The challenges a person with FASD faces may include:

Some of the factors that will increase the risk include:


The government advises that pregnant women should avoid alcohol altogether; this advice has also been given to women who are trying to conceive.

Nobody is sure how much alcohol will harm your unborn baby.  If you do choose to drink, to minimise risk to the baby, the government’s advice is to not have more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week and not to get drunk.

The more you drink during pregnancy the greater the risk.

N.B.  Foetal is the English spelling – Fetal is American but is used by most medical professionals to ensure that internet and other searches identify all relevant articles and research.