There is no known safe level of alcohol exposure during pregnancy.
There is no safe time, no safe amount, and no safe type of alcohol. Alcohol can harm a developing fetus at any point during a pregnancy, even before the pregnancy is confirmed. As 50% of Australian women experience an unplanned pregnancy, many are prenatally exposed to alcohol before the family becomes aware of the pregnancy. If you could be pregnant, or are planning a pregnancy, health professionals advise that abstinence from alcohol is safest. If you choose to drink alcohol, effective contraception is important to prevent unintentional prenatal alcohol exposure. Alcohol use during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm (early) birth, and SIDS, and can also result in FASD, which is a lifelong disability.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) advises that “maternal alcohol consumption can harm the developing fetus or breastfeeding baby”. NHMRC Guidelines recommend:
A. To prevent harm from alcohol to their unborn child, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol.
B. For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for their baby.
Healthy pregnancies are not the sole responsibility of women. A fathers’ alcohol consumption impacts the health of his developing baby and partners play a strong role in supporting alcohol-free pregnancy. Ceasing alcohol use together has been proven to be the most effective way to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Read more about what men can do to support healthy pregnancy or read about this couple’s plan for an alcohol-free pregnancy.
Follow this link to download The Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol.
The Daybreak app by Hello Sunday Morning helps people change their relationship with alcohol.
Chat with health coaches and access a supportive community with their free app.
Mind the Bump is a free Mindfulness Meditation App to help individuals and couples support their mental and emotional wellbeing in preparation for having a baby.
Where alcohol exposure has occurred, lowering stress levels reduces the likelihood of negative outcomes for the baby.
The latest research-backed information on the healthiest options for you, your partner, and your baby– from Telethon Kids Institute
What men can do – alcohol, pregnancy and prevention of FASD
Alcohol & Breastfeeding from the Australian Breastfeeding Association
Feed Safe – alcohol & breastfeeding app free download
Hello Sunday Morning – helpful resources for changing your drinking behaviour
Some ideas for saying no to alcohol when you are pregnant, planning or could become pregnant.
Some women may not want to disclose they are pregnant just yet. Remember, you do not have to justify or explain why you choose not to consume alcohol. However, in social settings you may choose to say:
No, thank you, I’m not drinking tonight.
No, thank you, but a juice would be wonderful.
No, thank you. I have to drive.
I have a big day/ early meeting tomorrow so no thanks.
I’m not feeling the best so would rather not, thanks.
If people already know you’re pregnant ask those closest to you to give you support and in these settings you may choose to say:
I’d rather have juice, thanks.
No thanks, I’m being kind to my baby!
No thanks, when I drink alcohol so does my baby!
No thanks, not while I’m pregnant!
No thanks, my baby’s too young to drink alcohol!
No thanks, I’m celebrating being pregnant!
Check out some great alcohol-free beverage ideas here:
Finding help for alcohol and other drug difficulties
There is support available if you need help to stop drinking alcohol. Hello Sunday Morning has an app to help you change your relationship with alcohol and Sober in the Country offers crucial support for those in regional and rural areas. NOFASD Australia recommends speaking to your GP to gain health and medical advice when reducing or stopping alcohol consumption. A counsellor or psychologist may also be able to assist. These websites provide information on the support services available in your state:
Alcohol & Other Drug Services
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do I need to stop drinking alcohol if I am trying for a baby?
Approximately 50% of pregnancies in Australia are unplanned. If you are a regular drinker and you become pregnant unexpectedly, you may accidentally cause harm to your baby without realising. For this reason, The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines state: “To prevent harm from alcohol to their unborn child, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol.” We recommend that contraception is used whenever you are drinking alcohol.
Q: Can I drink alcohol if there is a chance I’m pregnant?
If there is a possibility that you are pregnant, the safest option is to not drink any alcohol. Alcohol can cause harm to the developing baby even within the first month after conception. At this time the baby’s brain and central nervous system is developing rapidly and any alcohol consumed can permanently damage these and other organs.
Q: Can alcohol cross the placenta to my baby?
Alcohol is a teratogen. This means that alcohol crosses the placenta to enter the baby’s bloodstream. A fetus lacks the ability to effectively process alcohol, as the liver is not fully formed. This means that when alcohol is consumed the baby’s blood alcohol content will be the same, or sometimes higher than, the mother’s and it remains at that level for a longer period of time.
Q: Can I drink alcohol when I’m pregnant?
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines state: “To prevent harm from alcohol to their unborn child, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol.” The safest option is not to drink any alcohol when pregnant, possibly pregnant, or breastfeeding.
Q: Is there a safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant?
Researchers have not identified any safe amount of alcohol for a pregnancy. Evidence shows that even small amounts of alcohol can harm a fetus, so not drinking anything at all is recommended.
Q: Is it ok to have a glass of wine while pregnant?
Research has found that even small amounts of alcohol can harm your baby, so guidelines indicate that the safest option is not to consume any alcohol during pregnancy.
Q: Can alcohol hurt my baby in the first month of pregnancy?
Research has shown that it is unsafe to drink alcohol at any stage and in any trimester of pregnancy. Alcohol can permanently harm the developing baby even during those first few weeks after conception.
Q: Is any type of alcohol ok to drink while pregnant?
Any type of alcoholic drink can cause harm. This includes champagne, wine, beer, spirits, pre-mixed drinks and shots.
Q: What happens if you drink during pregnancy?
A: Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to some or all of the following:
- Heart and limb defects
- Low birth weight
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: a permanent disability which can include:
- Neurological (brain) damage
- Problems with thinking, decision making and memory
- Poor motor control/coordination
- Poor ability to control emotions
- Intellectual and learning difficulties
- Speech and language delays
- Behavioural issues
Q: Can drinking alcohol while pregnant cause miscarriage?
Research has shown that each additional week of alcohol exposure during the first trimester increases the risk of miscarriage, even at low levels of consumption.
Q: Will the effects of alcohol exposure during pregnancy disappear as the child gets older?
The effects of prenatal alcohol exposure are life-long and incurable. Any harm that has occurred may not be obvious at birth, but will impact the individual through childhood, adolescence and throughout their adult life.
Q: Can we see the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure at birth?
A: Not in most cases.
A minority of people with FASD may be identified by characteristic facial features (with or without other birth defects) and/or poor growth. However, 80-90% of people with FASD don’t look different to others but do experience significant difficulties with things like managing emotions, behaviour, learning and social development.
Q: I’m breastfeeding, is it safe for my baby if I drink alcohol?
A: The NHMRC guidelines advise that “women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not drink alcohol.” This is because if a mother drinks when she is breastfeeding, the alcohol crosses into the breastmilk and the concentration of alcohol in her breastmilk is the same as that in her bloodstream. Alcohol stays in breastmilk for as long as it remains in the bloodstream, so not drinking alcohol is the safest option. You may wish to download the Feedsafe app so you have accurate information to make the best choice for your family.
Q: What do I do if I have been drinking and I’m pregnant?
A: It’s best to stop drinking from now on. Every day that you don’t drink alcohol increases the chance that your baby will be born healthy. Researchers estimate that about 1 in 13 pregnancies exposed to alcohol will result in a baby born with FASD. Other factors, including stress levels and nutrition, also impact the baby’s development. This means that the best thing you can do for your baby is to keep yourself healthy and avoid situations which are stressful. NOFASD’s Helpline is available on 1800 860 613 if you want more information.
If you have a question that is not on this page please contact us. NOFASD’s qualified and experienced staff will be happy to answer your questions and provide confidential, accurate advice.