Pregnant or planning a pregnancy

resources

Find out more about pregnancy and alcohol

If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, the below resources provide clear and evidence-based information about the effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and where you can go for further advice and support.

Information you might not know about pregnancy and alcohol

Every moment matters in pregnancy, and alcohol should not be a part of any of these moments. This brochure explains why. It provides evidence-based information on the effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Information you may not know about pregnancy, breastfeeding, and alcohol

This brochure, which will be distributed online as well as to more than 200,000 parents-to-be via Bounty Bags, provides evidence-based information about pregnancy, breastfeeding, and alcohol.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1 What are the risks of drinking alcohol in pregnancy?

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

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

The Australian Alcohol Guidelines recommend alcohol should not be consumed when pregnant or when planning a pregnancy.

Q2 What is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)?

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 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, and
  • 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, a person living with FASD has their own individual strengths and challenges.

Q3 What are common signs or effects of FASD?

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. Having access to diagnosis, disability support funding, services and early intervention results in better outcomes throughout their lives.

Q4 Is it ok to drink when trying for a baby?

You should avoid 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 get pregnant, it is important not to drink any alcohol. From the time of 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.

Q5 What level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy causes FASD? Can small amounts of alcohol cause FASD?

Any alcohol you have crosses the placenta to the 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 a baby being born with FASD.

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

The risk of FASD and other outcomes for the mother and baby, including miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature birth, increase when the amount and frequency of alcohol increases.

Q6 Are there different risks or impacts of drinking alcohol at different stages of pregnancy?

There is no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of a baby being born with FASD. Alcohol also increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, and low birth weight.

While all organs and systems can be impacted, the baby’s brain is developing throughout the whole pregnancy, and this is the organ that is most severely damaged by alcohol. Alcohol can impact both the brain structure and brain functions.

Other systems and organs of the body develop at different points during the pregnancy, and exposure to alcohol at these critical points can impact the specific system or organ growing at this time, such as sight, hearing, lung and heart functions.

Q7 Do all types of alcohol increase the risk of FASD?

All types of alcohol during pregnancy can cause damage to the developing baby and increase the risk of FASD.

Q8 What should I do if I drank alcohol before I knew I was pregnant?

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

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

If you drank alcohol before you knew you were pregnant and are concerned, you can talk with your doctor, midwife or obstetrician for advice about your specific circumstances.

Q9 What should I do if I am struggling to stop or cut down on drinking during pregnancy?

If you are finding it hard to stop or cut back on drinking alcohol, you can speak with a doctor, midwife, or obstetrician.

Health professionals speak to lots of people about alcohol. They can answer questions and provide information on services offering support and advice. To find more information on the support services available, click here.