Is drinking alcohol during pregnancy dangerous?

Yes, drinking alcohol during pregnancy can be dangerous to you and your baby. Babies born to mothers who drink alcohol during pregnancy may have health problems. One of these problems is fetal alcohol syndrome.

What is fetal alcohol syndrome?

Fetal alcohol syndrome is a group of problems in children born to mothers who drank alcohol during their pregnancy. These babies are usually small and underweight. They often have birth defects and, as they grow older, they may have behavior problems. The most serious problem is mental retardation.

How common is fetal alcohol syndrome?

In the United States, about 1,200 children are born each year with fetal alcohol syndrome. It is the leading cause of mental retardation in this country.

How much alcohol can I drink and not hurt my baby?

Even small amounts of alcohol can be harmful. Because no amount of alcohol can be considered safe, it is recommended that pregnant women avoid all alcohol during the entire pregnancy. Drinks with alcohol in them include beer, wine, hard liquor and wine coolers.

Can my baby get fetal alcohol syndrome even if I don't drink alcohol every day?

Yes. In fact, most women don't drink alcohol every day. Instead, they drink only on special occasions, such as weekends, holidays or parties. When they do drink, some women have five or more drinks at a time. This is called "binge drinking." This pattern of drinking is very dangerous for your baby, because it quickly makes the level of alcohol in your blood very high. So, even if you don't drink every day, you may put your baby at risk for fetal alcohol syndrome.

I know drinking would be bad for my baby but I can't stop. What should I do?

The best thing you can do is quit drinking when you are still thinking about getting pregnant. If you get pregnant, quit drinking alcohol and try other beverages, like water or fruit juices. It's a good idea to stop smoking, too.
Be honest with your doctor. Tell him or her how much you are smoking and drinking. Your doctor may be able to help you stop smoking and drinking before it hurts your baby.

Is there a cure for fetal alcohol syndrome?

No, there is no cure. Children with fetal alcohol syndrome can be helped, though. The treatment involves giving them good medical and dental care, and eyeglasses or hearing aids if these are needed, and placing them in special school programs.

The best way to treat fetal alcohol syndrome is to keep it from happening. You can do this by not drinking alcohol during your pregnancy. Remember these things:

This information provides a general overview on alcohol use during pregnancy and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.
This information was provided by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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