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Common questions

Common questions

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You may have questions about drinking alcohol when pregnant, trying for a pregnancy, or while breastfeeding. We’ve provided answers to some of the common questions. The responses are based on the latest evidence and proven advice.

Always know that support is available if you have specific questions relating to your circumstances. You can talk with your doctor, midwife, obstetrician or contact any of the services listed on our support page.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is risky for both the mum and the developing baby. Alcohol increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and babies being born prematurely, small for gestational age, or with low birth weight.

It can also lead to a baby being born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), a lifelong disability.

The National Health and Medical Research Council’s Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol advise that to prevent harm from alcohol to their unborn child, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol.

FASD is a lifelong disability caused by alcohol exposure during pregnancy. It is the leading preventable non-genetic developmental disability in Australia.

People with FASD can experience lifelong physical, behavioural, and cognitive challenges and may need daily support. Many people with FASD experience:

  • physical and emotional developmental delay.
  • impaired speech and language development.
  • learning problems, such as problems with memory and attention.
  • difficulty controlling behaviour.

These challenges can affect each person with FASD in different ways. For people living with FASD and their families, having access to diagnosis, disability support funding, services, and early intervention results in better outcomes throughout their lives. As with any disability, each person living with FASD has their strengths and challenges.

People with FASD may have challenges with:

  • coordination
  • attention
  • memory
  • learning
  • speech and language
  • cognition
  • reasoning and judgment
  • impulse control and hyperactivity
  • managing emotions
  • life skills, social skills, and relationships

People with FASD also have a range of strengths, talents, and interests. Access to diagnosis, disability support funding, services, and early intervention results in better outcomes throughout their lives.

You should not drink any alcohol when trying for a baby and when you are pregnant.

Most people are unaware of the exact time they become pregnant, so when trying to conceive, it is important not to drink alcohol. From conception, well before the pregnancy is confirmed, alcohol can damage your developing baby.

Alcohol can also impact the fertility of both partners and increase the time it takes to get pregnant.

Any alcohol you consume crosses the placenta to your developing baby, which increases the risk of damaging the developing organs and systems of the body, including the brain and central nervous system.

Any alcohol increases the risk of your baby being born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Alcohol can impact your developing baby at any stage of pregnancy – leading to the advice that when pregnant or planning a pregnancy, you should not drink alcohol.

The risk of FASD, and adverse outcomes for the mum and developing baby, increase with the amount and frequency of alcohol consumption. There is no identified safe level of alcohol during pregnancy.

There is no identified safe time to drink alcohol throughout pregnancy.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of a baby being born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Alcohol also increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and babies being born prematurely, small for gestational age, or with low birth weight.

Alcohol can damage the baby’s development at any time during the pregnancy because different organs and systems of the body are developing at different times.

While all organs and systems can be affected, the baby’s brain – which is developing throughout pregnancy – is the organ most severely damaged by alcohol. Alcohol can impact both brain structure and functions. Other body parts develop at different points during pregnancy, and exposure to alcohol at these critical times can damage systems and organs such as sight, hearing, lung and heart functions.

All types of alcohol consumed during pregnancy can cause damage to the developing baby and increase the risk of FASD – be it beer, wine, or spirits.

It is never too late to stop drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Brain growth continues throughout pregnancy, so staying alcohol-free for the remainder of your pregnancy will prevent any further increase in risk.

If you drank alcohol before you knew you were pregnant and are concerned, help is available. Speak to your doctor, midwife, or obstetrician or contact one of the services listed on the support services page.

Services are available to support you or a family member with concerns about alcohol, including specialist pregnancy support services for people with alcohol and/or other drug dependence.  

If you are finding it hard to stop drinking alcohol, know that you are not alone and that help is available. Speak with a doctor, midwife, or obstetrician or contact one of the services listed on the support services page.

Services are available to support you or a family member with concerns about alcohol, including specialist pregnancy support services for people with alcohol and/or other drug dependence.

Not drinking alcohol is safest for the baby when you are breastfeeding. This is because developing infant brains are more vulnerable to alcohol than adults. Research has found alcohol in breastmilk has been linked to reduced verbal IQ, lower cognitive ability, and slowed growth.

This is in addition to the potential short-term effects like disruption to your baby’s sleep and feeding difficulties due to reductions in milk supply and changes in milk flow.

If you do drink alcohol, there are simple, evidence-based strategies you can use to ensure your breastmilk is alcohol-free. For example, waiting two hours per standard drink before feeding your baby, using the Feed Safe app to know when your breastmilk is alcohol-free or expressing before you drink so your baby can be fed by bottle.

If there is alcohol in your blood, it is also in your milk.

The only way to eliminate alcohol from breastmilk is to wait for your body to process the alcohol, which takes an average of two hours per standard drink.

If you do drink alcohol, there are simple, evidence-based strategies you can use to ensure your breastmilk is alcohol-free. For example, waiting two hours per standard drink before feeding your baby, using the Feed Safe app to know when your breastmilk is alcohol-free or expressing before you drink so your baby can be fed by bottle.

The only way to eliminate alcohol from breastmilk is to wait for your body to process the alcohol, which takes an average of two hours per standard drink. 

Expressing milk and discarding it after drinking alcohol, also known as ‘pumping and dumping’, will not remove alcohol from breastmilk. If there is alcohol in your blood, it is also in your breastmilk.

If you do drink alcohol, wait two hours per standard drink before feeding your baby, or use the Feed Safe app , to know when your breastmilk is alcohol-free. You can also express milk before you drink alcohol so you or someone else can feed your baby by bottle while the alcohol remains in your body.

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