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Effects of Alcohol in Pregnancy

Updated on March 19, 2013

Advice on Alcohol in pregnancy

Up until the last couple of years, having one or two drinks on occasions during pregnancy was the normal advice given, today this advice has changed to no alcohol in pregnancy at all. Drinking alcohol can affect a growing fetus at any stage in pregnancy.

Alcohol crosses through the placenta which is where your baby is getting its nutrients from to help it grow and develop. The baby's liver is one of the last organs in the body to develop and therefore matures later on in the pregnancy. Your baby cannot process alcohol as well as you can.


If you drink within the first 3 months of your pregnancy then development of your baby maybe impaired and can have an effect on the rest of your pregnancy, Drinking can also cause miscarriage within the first three months of pregnancy.

Drinking excessively throughout pregnancy can lead to babies being born with what is called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or FAS for short. The characteristics of FAS are the following:

  • Restricted Growth
  • Facial Abnormalities
  • Poor brain development leading to learning and behavioural difficulties.

Drinking 1 to 2 units of alcohol once or twice per week can lead to mild forms of FAS.

What is a Unit of alcohol?

In the UK one unit of alcohol is:

  • Half pint of beer, lager or cider at 3.5% or
  • A single measure of spirit of whisky, gin, bacardi, vodka etc at 40% or
  • Half a glass of wine (175mls) at 11.5 %

The advice now in pregnancy is to not drink at all in pregnancy, however if you choose to drink the risks are explained.

If you have difficulty with trying to cut down or stop drinking then you need to see your health professional and talk to them in confidence where they will be able to support you in getting the right help.

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