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My Doctor Told Me a Little Was Ok

When looking for accurate information on having a healthy pregnancy, we’re supposed to be able to trust our health care professionals.  But, sometimes they can get it wrong about alcohol and pregnancy.

But my doctor said...?

We all want to trust that our doctors are giving us the best possible medical advice. However, research has found that many health care providers aren’t aware of the most up-to-date information on alcohol use during pregnancy.1-3 Because of this, they may be sharing incorrect information with their patients. Proof Alliance is working to ensure that all health care professionals across the country know that there is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy. If you’re a health care professional and want to learn more, click here.

Is alcohol really that serious during pregnancy?

Alcohol is a teratogen that crosses the placenta and can damage the central nervous system and other organs of the developing embryo or fetus. 4, 5 No more than two hours after maternal ingestion, the blood alcohol level of the fetus is the same as or higher than the mothers.6

Alcohol use during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of birth defects in the United States.7 Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause a number of birth defects, including:

  • microcephaly (a condition in which the baby’s head and brain are significantly smaller than expected)8, 9
  • abnormal facial development in the lip, mid-face, and eyes10
  • structural brain defects.11, 12

This is a major public health issue, as the most recent data (2022) states that 1 in 7 pregnancies are exposed to alcohol.13

View sources

1 Coons KD, Watson SL, Yantzi NM, Lightfoot NE, Larocque S. “No alcohol is recommended, but…” Health care students’ attitudes about alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Global Qualitative Nursing Research. 2017;4:1-12.

2 Bagley K, Badry D. How personal perspectives shape health professionals’ perceptions of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and risk. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16:1936.

3 Kameg B, Knapp E, Pierce-Bulger M, Mitchell AM. Educational opportunities for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder prevention. Journal of Addictions Nursing. 2017;28(2):53-54.

4 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Fetal Alcohol Exposure.

5 Fitzpatrick JP, Pestell CF. Neuropsychological Aspects of Prevention and Intervention for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in Australia. Journal of Pediatric Neuropsychology. 2017;3(1):38-52.

6 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(9):652-659.

7 Williams JF, Smith VC. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Pediatrics. 2015;136(5):e1395-406.

8 Feldman HS, et al. Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Patterns and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects and Growth Deficiencies: A Prospective Study. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2012;36(4):670-676.

9 Treit S, Zhou D, Chudley AE, et al. Relationships between Head Circumference, Brain Volume and Cognition in Children with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(2):1-15.

10 Sawada Feldman H, Lyons Jones K, Lindsay S, et al. Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Patterns and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects and Growth Deficiencies: A Prospective Study. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. 2012;36(4):670-676.

11 Muralidharan P, Sarmah S, Feng C. Zhou, Marrs JA. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Associated Neural Defects: Complex Mechanisms and Potential Therapeutic Targets. Brain Sciences (2076-3425). 2013;3(2):964-991.

12 Lewis SM, Vydrová RR, Leuthold AC, Georgopoulos AP. Cortical miscommunication after prenatal exposure to alcohol. Experimental Brain Research. 2016;234(11):3347-3353.

13 Gosdin LK, Deputy NP, Kim SY, Dang EP, Denny CH. Alcohol consumption and binge drinking during pregnancy among adults aged 18–49 years – United States, 2018–2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2022;71(1):10–13