While it is commonly understood that excessive alcohol consumption is harmful to a developing fetus, there may be some uncertainty about a potential “safe level” of more moderate drinking while pregnant. However, when it comes to the absolute safest choice for your child, abstinence is the best decision.
Is Any Amount of Wine Safe to Drink While Pregnant?
The American Academy of Pediatrics, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and The National Association on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome all state that there is no safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy.1,2 A growing baby is exposed to the same amount of alcohol as its mother. Regardless of whether it is liquor, beer, or wine, alcohol passes through the placenta to the fetus.1
Even a small glass of wine exposes the baby to alcohol which has the potential to cause harm. Research indicates that any alcohol use during pregnancy can increase the risk of premature delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Risks & Effects of Drinking Wine While Pregnant
While complete abstinence from alcohol during pregnancy is recommended, the CDC states that about 10% of women report drinking alcohol during their pregnancies, but use may be even more prevalent than reported. Given the growing awareness of the risks of drinking while pregnant and the associated social stigma, women may be more likely to underreport or altogether deny any drinking.4
There may be a misconception that wine drinking during pregnancy is safer than liquor; however, regardless of the type of alcohol, the baby is still exposed. Drinking any type or amount of alcohol can adversely affect a baby’s growth and development.5 Because no precise dose-response relationship has been determined connecting an amount of alcohol consumed to how the baby may be affected, conventional wisdom dictates that drinking any type or amount of alcohol be viewed as having the potential to adversely affect growth and development.4, 5
Prenatal alcohol exposure of any kind is linked to the following:4
- Preterm delivery.
- School birth.
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
- Birth defects resulting in cardiac, skeletal, skin, renal and other urogenital abnormalities.
- Low birth weight.
- Postnatal growth retardation.
- Cognitive, neurological, and behavioral disorders.
- Craniofacial dysmorphia.
- Reduced IQ.
- Learning difficulties.
Despite otherwise normal physical growth and development, some children who were exposed to alcohol in utero display a characteristic pattern of behavioral and cognitive impairments categorized as Alcohol Related Neurological Disorder (ARND). These abnormalities include:4
- Impaired fine motor skills.
- Visuo-spatial problems.
- Language delays.
- Poor communication skills.
- Sleep disorders.
- Feeding disorders.
- ADHD and other behavioral disorders.
- Impaired memory and judgment.
What Is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
Each year, up to 40,000 babies are born with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) in the U.S.10 The term FASD is used to describe any of several conditions that develop as a result of a mother’s alcohol use when a child is in utero.11 While fetal death is the most extreme outcome to result from drinking while pregnant, fetal alcohol spectrum (FAS) represents the most overt presentation of the FASD spectrum.11 FAS can result from high alcohol consumption, binge drinking, or regular use of alcohol throughout pregnancy.
Those with FAS may have central nervous system (CNS) problems, abnormal facial features, growth complications and problems with memory, attention span, hearing, learning or vision.11 People with FAS may have a mix of these problems and the effects are irreversible and last a lifetime. However, this condition is 100% preventable if a mother abstains from alcohol during pregnancy.
What If I Can’t Stop Drinking While Pregnant?
Because there is no known safe amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy, the best way to ensure the safety of your baby is to avoid drinking entirely. If you’re finding it difficult to quit drinking or aren’t sure if your drinking habits have become problematic, it may be time to seek professional help. Taking action to live a life of sobriety can be scary, but recovery is possible.
Research has shown that rehabilitation treatment can be very effective in helping individuals maintain a life of sobriety.12 Treatment typically involves a mix of private and group counseling sessions, behavioral therapies, medications, and support groups.12
If you’re ready to chat with someone today about treatment, American Addiction Centers’ admissions navigators are available 24/7 to discuss your options today. Or, learn more about the stages of alcoholism, the physical and psychological effects of alcohol abuse, or the various treatment types available.
. National Association on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. (n.d.). Light Drinking During Pregnancy.
. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Alcohol Use in Pregnancy.
. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Fact Sheets- Excessive Alcohol Use and Risk to Women’s Health.
. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2011). Alcohol During Pregnancy and Lactation: Recommendations versus Real Intake. Archives of Public Health, 68(4): 134-42.
. NHS. (2018). How long does alcohol stay in your blood?
. Bowling Green State University. (n.d.). Alcohol Metabolism.
. Corrales-Gutierrez, I., Mendoza, R., Gomez-Baya,D. & Leo-Larios, F. (2019). Pregnant Women’s Risk Perception of the Teratogenic Effects of Alcohol Consumption in Pregnancy. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 8(6): 907.
. Centers for Disease Control Prevention. (2016). Fact Sheets — Moderate Drinking.
. Dietary Guidelines. (2015-2020). Appendix 9. Alcohol
. American Pregnancy Association. (n.d.). Alcohol and Pregnancy.
. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Basics about FASDs.
. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2014). Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.