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Article: We all play a part in preventing FASD.

We all play a part in preventing FASD.

Understanding the effects of drinking during pregnancy is an important way to take part in FASD prevention, help others have a healthy alcohol-free pregnancy and stop the spread of misinformation.

You can help prevent FASD.

Which of these best describes you?

I am pregnant.

Congrats!

You’ve probably already started researching steps you can take to have a healthy pregnancy and you may be feeling overwhelmed. Information overload during pregnancy is common.

We’re glad you found Proof Alliance. We’re here to help you make informed and empowered decisions, supported by the latest public health research available.

Here’s what the research says:

  • There is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy.[1],[2],[3] Alcohol crosses through the placenta and affects how your baby is developing.[4] It can be especially harmful to the baby’s brain, which is developing throughout the entire pregnancy.[5]

 

  • There is no safe type of alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol is alcohol, and one type of alcohol is not less harmful to an embryo or fetus than another.11 All types of alcohol contain chemicals (known as teratogens) that can impact fetal development.

 

  • There is no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy. Drinking alcohol at any stage of pregnancy (from conception to birth) poses a risk. Prenatal alcohol exposure as early as 3 weeks after conception can disrupt the development of the brain, spinal cord, and heart.17 The brain continues to develop throughout the entire pregnancy, and brain injury can be caused by prenatal alcohol exposure during the first, second, or third trimesters.18

 

The World Health Organization[6], Centers for Disease Control (CDC)[7], American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)[8], and all other major medical associations agree – alcohol-free, from conception to birth is the safest choice during pregnancy.

We know abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy isn’t always an easy choice. If you want extra support or information, we’re here for you.

For free and confidential support, give us a call at (651) 917-2370 or e-mail us at info@proofalliance.org.

I'm trying to conceive.

When you’re trying for a baby, you may become pregnant and not even know it for the first few weeks. In fact, most people don’t find out they’re pregnant until they’re 4 or more weeks along.[2]

The baby’s brain is already starting to develop by that time. Drinking alcohol in those early weeks before you realize you’re pregnant can impact the baby’s brain development.[3]

That’s why it’s safest to not drink any alcohol at all if you’re actively trying for a baby.

We know abstaining from alcohol when you’re trying to conceive isn’t always an easy choice. If you want extra support or information, we’re here for you.

For free and confidential support, give us a call at (651) 917-2370 or e-mail us at info@proofalliance.org.

I don't want to get pregnant right now.

While it might seem like preventing FASD is irrelevant since you’re not pregnant or planning to get pregnant any time soon (or ever!), taking steps to prevent unplanned pregnancy, especially if you’re mixing drinking and sex, helps minimize the risk of FASD.

Have a contraception plan 

Almost half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned.[1] If you’re having sex and you don’t want to become pregnant, talk with your health care provider about different birth control options. Your doctor can help you figure out which one is right for you. Some birth control options – like the IUD and the implant – are more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.[2]

An unplanned pregnancy increases risk of alcohol exposure

If you get pregnant and don’t realize it until you’re a few weeks along (which is quite common!), any drinks you have during those early stages of pregnancy could affect the way the baby’s brain will develop. Using effective birth control every time you have sex to avoid an unintended pregnancy is one very important way that you can help prevent FASD.

 Make safe alcohol choices

Many people’s drinking behavior is considered high-risk and they might not even realize it. For example, 17% of adults in the U.S. binge drank in the past month[3], and 1 in 4 adults have had at least one heavy drinking episode in the past year.[4]

Despite how common and widely accepted drinking is, there are many serious risks associated with alcohol, including injuries, alcohol poisoning and diseases such as cancer.[5]

If you choose to drink, there are ways to do it more safely:

  • Drink in moderation. This means up to 1 standard serving of alcohol per day for women and up to 2 standard servings of alcohol per day for men.[6]
  • Avoid binge drinking (4 or more drinks for women/5 or more drinks for men in about 2 hours).[7]
  • Know what is considered one standard serving of alcohol (12 ounces of regular beer, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits like vodka and tequila).
  • Talk to your health care provider if you’re worried about your drinking habits.

Find more alcohol safety tips here.

I want to show support for someone who's pregnant.

Support from loved ones (especially partners) is so important.

Pregnant people who feel supported in their choice to be alcohol-free are less likely to drink during pregnancy.[1]

Here are some ideas [2]:

  • Go alcohol-free to show your support and solidarity
  • Skip drinks when you’re with a friend who’s pregnant
  • If you’re craving a delicious drink, mix up some mocktails together
  • Hosting a party? Have some alcohol-free drink options available
  • Don’t be shy about sharing what you’re learning – talk openly about the benefits of an alcohol-free pregnancy (for tips on what to say, check out this free language guide we’ve created)

Remember that abstaining from alcohol isn’t always an easy choice. If you think your friend may want extra support or information, let them know Proof Alliance is here for them.

For free and confidential support, they can give us a call at (651) 917-2370 or e-mail us at info@proofalliance.org.

 

View sources

1 Flak AL, Su, Bertrand J, Denny CH, Kesmodel US, Cogswell ME. The association of mild, moderate, and binge prenatal alcohol exposure and child neuropsychological outcomes: A meta-analysis. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2014;38(1):214-226.

2 Hemingway SJA, Bledsoe JM, Davies JK, Brooks A, Jirikowic T, Olson EM, Thorne JC. Twin study confirms virtually identical prenatal alcohol exposures can lead to markedly different fetal alcohol spectrum disorder outcomes – fetal genetics influences fetal vulnerability. Adv Pediatr Res. 2019;5:23.

3 Irner TB. Substance exposure in utero and developmental consequences in adolescence: A systematic review. Child Neuropsychology. 2012;18(6):521-549.

4 Burd L, Blair J, Dropps K. Prenatal alcohol exposure, blood alcohol concentrations and alcohol elimination rates for the mother, fetus and newborn. Journal of Perinatology. 2012;32:652-659.

5 Hendrickson et al. Cortical gyrification is abnormal in children with prenatal alcohol exposure. NeuroImage: Clinical. 2017;15 391-400.

6 World Health Organization. Counting the Costs of Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy. https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/95/5/17-030517/en/

7 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/alcoholuse.html

8 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Alcohol and women. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Alcohol-and-Women

9 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The impact of alcohol on women’s health. 2018.

10 Popova S, Dozet D, Burd L. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: Can we change the future?. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2020;44(4):815‐819.

11 Legault LM, Bertrand-Lehouillier V, McGraw S. Pre-implantation alcohol exposure and developmental programming of FASD: An epigenetic perspective. Biochem Cell Biol. 2018;96:117-130.

12 Finer LB, Zolna MR. Declines in Unintended Pregnancy in the United States, 2008-2011. New England Journal of Medicine. 2016;374: 843-852.

13 Turok DK, Gawron LM, Lawson S. New developments in long-acting reversible contraception: the promise of intrauterine devices and implants to improve family planning services. Fertil Steril. 2016;106(6):1273–1281.

14 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Data and maps: Excessive drinking. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/alcohol.htm

15 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alcohol use. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/alcohol.htm

16 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol’s effects on the body. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body

17 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fact sheets: Moderate drinking. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm

18 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fact sheets: Binge drinking. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm

19 van der Wulp NY, Hoving C, de Vries H. Partner’s influences and other correlates of prenatal alcohol use. Matern Child Health J. 2015;19(4):908-916.

20 Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health. Alcohol, pregnancy and partner support. https://bccewh.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/FASD-Sheet-6_Alcohol-Pregnancy-Partner-Support-Dec-6.pdf