Heavy drinking at any stage during pregnancy can be very harmful to a baby. The harms
caused to a baby whilst it is developing vary depending upon when you drink during your
pregnancy. Drinking during the first three months of pregnancy can damage the baby’s
developing organs such as the heart, nervous system and limbs. If you start or continue
to drink after this period it may slow down the baby’s growth and affect its development;
this damage cannot be undone, but it can be prevented.
It has now been advised by the government that pregnant women should avoid alcohol altogether; this advice
has also been given to women who are trying to conceive.
Although drinking 1-2 units of alcohol a week is unlikely to harm the baby please note that this can vary from
person to person, what is safe for someone else may not be safe for you. It is extremely important to avoid
getting drunk as this can lead to serious complications.
When you drink, alcohol passes from your blood, through the placenta, to your baby. A baby’s liver is one of
the last organs to develop fully and does not mature until the latter half of pregnancy.
Therefore, your baby cannot process alcohol as well as you can, and is exposed to a greater amount of alcohol
for longer periods of time.
Alcohol is not just dangerous for the baby in the first three months of pregnancy. If you drink heavily during
pregnancy a group of problems can develop, known as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).
FAS is the name given to a group of serious problems in babies whose mothers drank heavily
during their pregnancy. It is quite a rare condition but the risk can be greater if:
You are over 30 and drink heavily
You’ve had previous maternity problems and a history of miscarriage
The father is a heavy drinker
Babies born with FAS are likely to have physical abnormalities, such as:
Learning and behavioural disorders
The risks of heavy drinking during pregnancy
Months 0 – 3
Months 3 - 6
Months 6 - 9
- Damage to developing organs
and nervous system, resulting
in later mental and physical
- Major structural abnormalities
- Spontaneous miscarriage
- Continued risk of damage
to the central nervous system.
- Continued risk of miscarriage.
- Disruption to general
growth and development.
Dulled mental abilities.
- Low birth-weight.