Can you drink alcohol while pregnant?

When navigating the many choices you will face while pregnant, one good rule of thumb is to remember that your diet, habits and routines can directly affect the health of your unborn child. So can you drink even minimal amounts of alcohol?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts it this way: If you drink alcohol, so does your unborn child. If you maintain a healthy diet, your child will reap the benefits.

Alice Bailes, co-director of highly rated Birthcare and Women’s Health in Alexandria, Va., says that the center recommends that women not drink at all during pregnancy, following the guidelines established by the CDC. “Although I know that there is some discussion that permits the use of alcohol during pregnancy, our practice discourages any alcohol use.”

Bailes says it is particularly important to maintain healthy habits during the first and last trimesters of your pregnancy. “This is the period when the foundation for the baby’s brain is being established,” says Bailes, who also is a certified nurse midwife. “During the last trimester, the baby’s brain development is very rapid.”

Dr. Debra Kirkpatrick, the vice chair for clinical affairs for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, Ind., agreed it is particularly important to avoid nicotine and alcohol. “With alcohol, we still don’t know [about] the lower limits, so our recommendation is no drinking,” she said. “There is a whole fetal alcohol disorder spectrum that could result in growth delays and congenital defects. It’s pretty significant.”


I am the adoptive mother of 3 kids with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) whose birth mothers drank while they were pregnant with them. They are all good looking kids with normal range IQs. The damage to their brains is on a cellular level and so isn't visible via X-rays, etc. The sad thing is they can't function in daily living without someone to help them. They can't make change, manage money, understand time, link cause and effect, transfer learning from one situation to another, or understand social cues. They can't keep friends, jobs, or understand why. They are used by "friends" until the money's gone or their usefulness is over and then dropped. They have multiple mental, emotional, physical, and learning disabilities. They are developmentally about half their chronological ages and don't "fit in" with their peers. They are sad, depressed, and because of their cellular exposure to alcohol, very prone to self medicating with alcohol or drugs. Only about 10% of people with an FASD are able to live independently. Many of them wind up in the justice system and in jails because of their poor choices. Mandy, there *is* a slew of evidence on the effects of prenatal alcohol on the brain. Check out the University of Washington's Fetal Alcohol Developmental Unit's website or Google Drs. Sterling Clarren, Anne Streissguth, Ed Riley, or SAMHSA - alcohol, or Jodee & Liz Kulp. Drop into to read over 10,000 pieces of content relating to the effects of prenatal alcohol on the developing brain. National Institutes of Health has said that prenatal exposure to alcohol is more dangerous to the developing baby than ANY street drug out there. FASD is also the leading cause of mental retardation although most kids with an FASD have normal range IQs like our kids. They're too smart for support services and not smart enough to stay out of trouble. FASD is the ONLY 100% preventable birth defect. Yes, there are babies born who escape the worst of the effects but why risk it? Our children will never ever reach their potential and will struggle their entire lives because of their mothers' use of alcohol.

Not a very mature or knowledgable reply "Jane".... When you wrote: "Jane The people commenting with FAS children they've adopted, they must all be tee-totallers with a martyr complex thrown in, as fyi, the mothers of your children were raging drunks. They didn't stop at one drink a week or one or two glasses of champagne on New Year's Eve or a glass of wine in the evening with a slow, relaxing dinner. You say the studies were done in jail? Hello? These aren't your average, butter-wouldn't-melt-in-their-mouth type o' gals. These gals were rockin' their trailer court with the Mad Dog 20/20 with your little bun in their oven. They had and probably have problems galore and abstinence wasn't one of them. 8/10/2011 7:16:54 PM". If you truly want to know WHY the statistics are from mother's with adopted children is because, the numerous doctors & specialists have told me and written in Medical Journals that they are just learning more and more about FAS/E because of woman and families that adopted children trying to learn (initially) what is going on with thier children. Doctors have said (and again written) that with birthmothers, they have to tread very lightly when asking questions about their possible drinking habits for they would most likely not get an honest answer or worst. A lot of the latest medical journal information is coming from women that have adopted these wonderful children and are open about any history they know. With certain damage, the doctors can pretty much pinpoint the time of alcohol consumption and to what degree due to the damage!! So..... while a child in still in the WOMB.... there is NO Good or O.K. time to have a drink!!!!

Oh My Goodness Laura, When you wrote, "Laura Consider it from the doctor's perspective. Everyone who drinks believes they drink in moderation. The only safe advice they can give is not to drink at all. One glass of wine per week is not going to do any damage. It's not the best thing you can do for your body and your baby, but it's probably better than a cheeseburger. 8/10/2011 1:05:49 PM" Where you serious????? Why even have ONE drink??? Are you going to 'chart' the child's growth (cell division, etc.) will be everyday to see what part of the child will have alcohol going through his/her developing body with cells that will be damaged or just plain unhealthy? Why is A DRINK so very important to everyone??? Think of the child(ren)!!!

Dear Sherry! When you wrote: "Sherry Once again no evidence to support this position. Fetal alcohol disorder requires a large amount of alcohol consumption during preganancy and no one is advocating that. Use some common sense. 8/10/2011 3:00:30 PM " You really should research and LIVE the facts. Yes, amount / quantity is a key factor, but social drinking (1 to 3 glasses of wine, 1 hard liquor drink, or even several beers on a social basis is very dangerous to the unborn child. The timing of the alcohol during certain times of the fetus growth is when the "effects" happen. During certain times of key developement(s), and if alcohol is consumed will cause damage and most likely permanent damage. So, why if there is the SLIGHTEST chance of harming the child, would any one risk it for a "Drink". Living with the consequences of a "selfish" woman, breaks my heart for my darling daughter. SHE did NOT ask to DRINK and SHE has to pay with dealing with the effects for her whole life. This was a CHOICE of the birthmother, not my beautiful daughters! Please think about the child(ren) before making blanket statements. Thanks.....

Would I give my child alcohol - Yes I did and they are both in their thirties and are exceptionally talented. Did my wife drink during pregnancy - Yes she did and suffered no ill effects. So what is the difference - A little knowledge. Alcohol depletes the body's stores of B Vitamins. Lack of Foliate (One of the B Vitamins) causes birth defects. Lack of other B vitamins cause other problems so if you drink be sure to keep your diet good - lower carb with enough saturated fats to allow the creation of brain cells. Take reasonable vitamin supplements (Not the one per day variety because all the nutrition you need with todays poor foods will not fit in a single pill that you can swallow. (See Keep your vitamin D3 levels up to 80 ng/ml and take 12.5 mg per day of Iodine. Then drink if you like in moderation. One more thing, when the child is born get a pet and do not try to sterilize the environment. People need the germs in the environment to build a strong immune system. Will a doctor or other professional tell you any of the above - absolutely not. They could get sued or lose their license if they advocated drinking at any level. If you really want to know what your doctor thinks. Ask them to tell you what they or someone else did. That is not asking for medical advice and they can respond honestly. The same with the Iodine, food and other things in my list. You must take charge of your own health and the health of your own children, no one else will. Not your doctor, not the government, not the drug companies not even your pharmacist or your mother. Not even the well meaning people commenting here. This is one case you must do it yourself. Note: it is OK to work in groups to gather data. I helped build the Internet so you can find the resources you need. If you are in Georgia, go to any public library and the entire world is at your fingertips. Please take advantage of it, you will be glad you did when you are as old as I am. Just the musings of an old man who has been there and done that.

I cannot believe how many people are commenting on this posting. It is obvious to me that there are a lot of strong feelings about this issue. I am a licensed clinical addiction specialist and see first hand the results of what alcohol and drugs can do to a person. Most people do not have any idea what the definition of "moderate" drinking is to begin with. If someone cannot abstain from all alcohol for nine months, I would question their committment to parenting. There is entirely too much risk involved with drinking alcohol at all while pregnant. Even a little can cause damage at certain fetal developmental stages. I attended a seminar a couple of years ago lead by a woman who was told it was okay to have a couple of drinks every her doctor. Nine months later she had a baby who was diagnosed with FAS. This person is now a grown adult, is developmentally disabled and will never have a normal life. She cannot even cross the street by herself. I also had a young woman as a client whose gave premature birth to a baby girl who was deformed and only lived 10 hours due to major organ damage from her drinking almost daily. This woman was devastated by the loss. I am grateful Angie's List chose to give a warning to all who subscribe. I am even more inclined to continue to support this organization for many years.

I wholeheartedly agree. What the mother ingests, so goes the baby. I gave up all wine, alcohol, coffee, etc. and faithfully drank 3 glasses of milk daily (ugh). Both my children are healthy. My question is: If the father is an al coholic, is his sperm not affected? He is, after all, 1/2 of the genetic code.

Why is it that this is the only country with dire warnings about drinking alcohol during pregnancy. I don't see any major problems with children born in Europe. I think Americans carry everything too far. Being the child of an alcoholic is different from someone who has an occasional drink while pregnant. And there are other pollutants women take into their bodies. This is just another unproven admonishment to pregnant women that they aren't adult enough to take care of their own bodies during pregnancy. And why is this in Angie's List anyway.

I told my OB that a waitress had refused to serve me a glass to share a beer with my husband. He said "What business is it of hers?" and told me in the future that I should lie to someone rude enough to make a decision like that for me (and pretend that I'm not pregnant, when I obviously was). He had no problem at all with me having some beer, or some wine with dinner. This policy that any drop of alcohol will damage your fetus and have life-long repercussions is ridiculous.

Hey SAM...MRS so called expert.... Explain this....My wife didn't know she was pregnant until the second trimester due to her irregular periods. Years before I met her she used drugs and she got clean when she discovered she was pregnant. Our son (yes I adopted him) is top in his class and he has perfect vision and hearing. My wife's parents drink daily and for some weird reason she turned out just fine .... Can you explain any of this ????????

What hospital employs you? I want to make sure that I do not have to go to the ER when you are there. Not a single shread of advice....what the heck? My daughter has FASD. Ask her what she thinks about the fact that her mother drank. She is 17 and knows how it affected her. I suggest you just adopt a child that has FASD to see what it does to his or her life. NO SAFE TIME, NO SAFE AMOUNT period

Better safe than sorry. I feel that if I can't not drink for nine months, I probably have a problem. I do feel however that if these selfish people must drink, then let them risk having a child with deficits.....not my problem when their risk delivers just that. As for me I want to ensure I do everything I can to have a healthy baby.

The people commenting with FAS children they've adopted, they must all be tee-totallers with a martyr complex thrown in, as fyi, the mothers of your children were raging drunks. They didn't stop at one drink a week or one or two glasses of champagne on New Year's Eve or a glass of wine in the evening with a slow, relaxing dinner. You say the studies were done in jail? Hello? These aren't your average, butter-wouldn't-melt-in-their-mouth type o' gals. These gals were rockin' their trailer court with the Mad Dog 20/20 with your little bun in their oven. They had and probably have problems galore and abstinence wasn't one of them.

To all the people advocating drinking moderately while pregnant, would you feed your newborn or toddler a moderate amount of alcohol? What is the difference?

would recommend a pregnant woman take methotrexate or poison in moderation? Probably not, because not EVERYTHING in moderation is safe. If you are an ER doc, you need to go back to medical school. You should learn how the fetus' liver isn't developed enough to metabolize ethanol and will have a higher blood ethanol level that the mother. You'd know that alcohol interrupts the way RNA transcribes code from the DNA causing the ribosomes to synthesize the wrong proteins leading to cell demise….. If you are condoning alcohol use, you are not upholding your vow to do no harm.

I am the mom to a precious littl guy with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and sister to a trouble 13 yera old with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Alcohol is not safe. We use alcohol to sterilize operating rooms and our skin before we get a shot. The swabs have just a tiny amount of alcohol on them. Alcohol kills viruses and bacteria by breaking down the cell walls and inhibiting their ability to reproduce and carry out cellular functions. Like bacteria, a fetus is made of fast growning cells. When alcohol in introduced it damages cells. each organ starts out as 1 cell. If that 1 cell that is supposed to be the brain gets damaged, a baby can be born with Anencephaly. What ever is growing is what gets damaged the most. Alcohol interferes with the way RNA transcribes information. One must ask them selves if they are willing to damage even 1 cell in their baby's body.... If not, don't drink when you are pregnant. Trust me, it's not worth it....

Alcohol interferes with the organization and growth of brain cells. Do you want your baby to have a little bit of scrambled brains or a lot? I wish my mom didn't drink. I also wish I could do math, keep friends and jobs.

To those of you who brush off the recommendation to not drink while pregnant, I wish you could come to my house and spend a day with my adopted son, who has fetal alcohol syndrome. Its heartbreaking to see what he goes through because of the actions of his birthmother. But hey, if you still think its a bunch of b.s., then be my guest. Play russian roulette with your baby's life. And in the meantime, you might start thinking of how you're to explain to your brain damaged child that you're the reason he faces the problems a fetal alcohol kid has to endure. Good luck with that, ladies!

There is no reason a pregnant woman, especially in the later months, cannot enjoy the occasional glass of wine. It's too extreme when a pregnant woman is too afraid to participate in a champagne toast at a wedding! According to my obstetrician, the only cases of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome were in babies of mothers who were alcoholics. Just be reasonable and responsible.

Is it worth the risk???! I think not. You see, the effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol never get better. These children are left with irreversable brain damage that causes a lifetime of struggles. Struggles that are unimaginable... FAS is real and the only 100% preventable birth defect. So, please, for the babies, don't drink while you are pregnant! Love your baby enough to abstain for 9 months, please!

Wow! Pregnant people: You have a kid, you put the kid first and that begins when you have decided to allow him/her into your body. Just don't drink. Alcohol alters your mind, so why do you think your fetus' mind is immune? Oh, I know because your mind is already altered from alcohol. Get help. Wait until you believe you can put your child's needs and development first and stop drinking alcohol while you are pregnant! I love my wine every night, but I'm proud to say that I didn't have one drink while pregnant. Why do that to my baby? If you feel the buzz, your baby definitely does. Is that how you want your little one to be floating around in you? Buzzed up? Let's add more gifted children/human beings to our world. Take control and show your love of your child by temporarily giving up something so simple for such a wonderful reward!

I assume all those smart people who say it's fine to drink are open to raising kids whose mothers agreed with them. I have two, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. The rewards and anguish are unending.

Once again no evidence to support this position. Fetal alcohol disorder requires a large amount of alcohol consumption during preganancy and no one is advocating that. Use some common sense.

Lew, if you were pregnant you'd be rich. Otherwise, there is considerable evidence to support this position.

here we go, going overboard, AGAIN ! I totally agree with Miguel- there is nothing unhealthy about a glass of wine with dinner.

Yet another medical myth with NO basis in true research. As an ER doc..I tell people - everything in moderation...and you will likely be OK.

It's fine for expectant mothers not to drink while pregnant, but it makes no sense for them to do that while ignoring other serious toxic exposures like toxic mold in their homes or workplaces. There is a huge amount of literature on the dangers of toxic molds, particularly those that produce trichothecenes. Try googling "stachybotrys" or check out this link. It's a lot easier to not drink than to worry about toxic mold, certainly. But for those who want to ensure the health of their unborn child, the latter is still worth looking into.

I adopted a daughter with FASD. Here life is altered forver. Is it worth the risk? You should ask her.

I can't believe all the negative comments on here. The article admits they don't have evidence, and is merely cautionary. I know from personal experience that alcohol affects every body differently. I start losing my hair - literally, measurably - if I drink moderately, like 2 drinks a day a few days a week. I would not trust that my baby would be able to handle alcohol any better than myself, and I personally would rather put the health of my child above my own whims. Anyone who is willing to take that risk should seriously consider whether they're ready to make all the MUCH more difficult sacrifices that come with raising that child (possibly with a disability).

As the adoptive mother of 9 children who have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder I would like to argue with Mandy Moore! Sorry but I also work with researchers who have TONS of research to support this position. Only ignorant people would say that this is only a better safe than sorry piece of advice. I know my children suffer daily due to their mother's drinking. I also know their mother's did not ever set out to damage them. The alcohol did damage that will never be undone and they will suffer for the rest of their lives because of this prenatal alcohol exposure. I have children who are afflicted by uncontrollable epilepsy, major organ damage but mainly the damage is in the brain. This damage can be absolutely catastrophic to them. Please know that your baby matters and as such isn't it better to be safe than sorry???

Consider it from the doctor's perspective. Everyone who drinks believes they drink in moderation. The only safe advice they can give is not to drink at all. One glass of wine per week is not going to do any damage. It's not the best thing you can do for your body and your baby, but it's probably better than a cheeseburger.

There is no reason a pregnant woman, especially in the later months cannot enjoy the occasional glass of wine. It's extreme thinking when one sees a pregnant woman too afraid to participate in a champagne toast at a wedding! According to my obstetrician, the only cases of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome were in babies of mothers who were alcoholics. Just be reasonable and responsible.

Why is this coming to me from Angie's List? What does it have to do with service providers? I hardly think this is appropriate.

The doctors and experts didn't go far enough. A pregnant woman's drinking alcohol causes horrible brain damage to the fetus and results in emotional, psychological, learning, and other challenges that are severe, lifelong, and irreparable. Severe anger, mood instability, very challenging learning issues, and more are the result. There is plenty of evidence. Go to or google FAS (fetal alcohol spectrum) to read heartbreaking stories about these individuals. It seems that a woman could stop drinking for 9 months to ensure the chance of good health for her child.

As adoptive mother of a child with fetal alcohol effect, I support this wholeheartedly. Yes, you can drink throughout pregnancy with no effect, but the strong potential is there for seerious and lifelong problems. My son is wonderful, but he wishes he were normal. He is working hard to overcome the challenges he faces. I know others like him. Read the book, Damaged Angels, for more insight. There is more than a single shred of evidence to support this position. Hurray for Angie's list for publicizing this problem!

It is important to society to produce healthy children. Alcohol is a teratogen - it kills cells. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder includes mental retardation, liver and kidney damage, heart murmurs and other organ damage, hormone system disruptions, small brain size, small body size, webbed fingers, hearing and vision loss, ADHD, mental illness like bipolar, inability to think fast enough in the moment to act or speak in situations regarding right or wrong, inability to attach to people and in severe cases sociopathic behavior, memory loss. There is a huge body of research about the effects of alcohol exposure to a growing fetus. If readers are not informed, they can easily search it on the internet. It is estimated that perhaps as many as 70% of the incarcerated individuals in this country have had alcohol exposure in utero - that study looked at several prisons and the results are so sad because FASD is a preventable disease. The cost to families and to society to care for disabled persons is astronomical and I don’t think anyone should defend an activity that produces such chaos and is so expensive. Although we are told that obesity and heart disease are the largest diseases in the US population, Fetal Alcohol Exposure outstrips them by a wide margin. It is not a class disease - you can be wealthy or you can be poor. Kids of wealthier families get the services and supports to help them make it through life, the kids without supports just do poorly or die early. I am an adoptive parent of alcohol affected kids. I am an expert on this subject and I hope that readers of Angies List will hear this loud and clear, there is no acceptable level of alcohol or substance use during pregnancy. The life you ruin may be your own as you are stuck caring for disabled people into adulthood, or maybe you just produce a person who has disabilities. The evidence is quite clear - no alcohol during pregnancy or nursing. And regarding the argument that others are doing it - think hard about what you just said... do you know what those children could have produced if they hadn't had exposures? I don't see any of the countries you listed, or others who engage in heavy cultural drinking as being high producers of anything in particular. I also know that wealthier families in Eastern Europe are well educated about prenatal care and they do not drink during pregnancy. It is the masses who seem to be uninformed. Kudos to Angies List for this article.

Really? This is the kind of advice Angie's List is giving out? Next week, "Is it healthy to smoke crystal meth?"

I have an adopted daughter with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She has significant learning problems and had difficulty understanding social cues. She also is very hyperactive. She has been bullied at school because she doesn't "get it" socially. This is a 24-7 disability and a horrible legacy to pass onto to any human being. I can't tell you all the pain this has caused my family. As to someone's comment about there not being a "single shred of evidence" to support not drinking during pregnancy--that is self-delusional and just a way to rationalize damaging an unborn baby. If you want to drink, do NOT get pregnant. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is very real and there are MORE case in France and Italy than the United States. If you don't believe me than go to the CDC webpage or and find out. Don't just repeat things because it feels good to you. Please do NOT drink when you are pregnant. There is no safe amount. Alchohol is a teratogen which means it causes birth defects-period. They don't need more scientific studies, it has already been proven.

Thank you Mandy Moore! Right on. I'm sure there are people who need to be careful (see Angela's comment above), and perhaps it's easier to recommend no alcohol rather than try to sort out who can and who can't. Here's a good quote from the Wikipedia entry on fetal alcohol syndrome: "An analysis of seven medical research studies involving over 130,000 pregnancies found that consuming two to 14 drinks per week did not significantly increase the risk of giving birth to a child with either malformations or fetal alcohol syndrome. Pregnant women who consume approximately 18 drinks per day have a 30-33% chance of having a baby with FAS." 18 drinks a day! Individual women should do whatever makes them feel comfortable. It worries me when medical professionals either don't understand the scientific data or intentionally misrepresent it.

This message is VERY important to get out to the public! I adopted my daughter, and after testing, found that my darling daughter had been exposed to alcohol prior to birth. She has learning difficulties, and life long issues ahead of her all because her birthmother decided to DRINK! My daughter is a very loving and happy child but has struggles daily. Drinking while pregnant is reckless in any amount! Why would you even take a chance of hurting your unborn child and sentencing them to a life of struggles???? Please think of you child before you drink!!!

Mandy Moore - AMEN! While I am not a drinker and especially while pregnant, I may have a glass of wine now and then and it didn't hurt my three children! I think everything in moderation is the key. SO sick of the federal government running our lives and telling us how to live. Aobviously, the federal government is a grand authority on health matters and all matters, considering the health of our citizens vs those in Europe and surrounding countries. Unbelievable.

One only has to visit the residential facilities, the hospitals, the prisons to find those whose mothers thought there was not 'a shred of evidence' that indicates that alcohol consumption during pregnancy can profoundly damage the fetus with lifelong consequences. Gee, giving up drinking for nine months; what a sacrifice.

If someone told me I was pregnant, I'd certainly have a drink.

Good advice on the surface. If only there were a single shred of evidence to support this position. Doctors are smothering pregnant women with "better safe than sorry" advice.

I didn't join Angie's List to receive chastising and paternalistic e-mails. Geez, stick to what you do.

I guess this is why the French, Spanish and Italians have brain dead or alcoholic children? All of the Romantic countries drink (with moderation) through their entire pregnancy ... maybe it is because Americans have become so, so paranoid about this that we have trouble with it. I.e. drink with responsibility ... and moderation both men and women ... or let 'Big brother' rule your lives ... as sheeple you are.

THANK YOU for encourageing women not to drink when pregnant. I am a grandmother raising 2 grandchildren severely affected by alcohol exposure, in utero, and know, first hand, the horrible effects alcohol plays on the developing fetus. No alcohol is the only way to prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders!

Although I do agree with this, this type of article hardly belongs on a site where I'm supposed to be getting home/reno tips and advice.

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