It's Never Safe to Drink During Pregnancy -- But Don't Panic


glass of wineOh, my pregnant friends, are you sitting down? A new study brings some news that, while not unsurprising, may yet be tough to hear, especially for those of us who, unaware that we were pregnant during the first few weeks of pregnancy, maybe had a glass of wine or two in the days before seeing those twin lines appear on that tell-tale stick: It's never safe to drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy -- and it can be particularly harmful to your fetus during the first trimester.

On the (relatively) bright side, it's actually drinking alcohol at the end of the first trimester that puts your fetus most at risk for developing physical, behavioral, or cognitive problems, this new research, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, has found.

According to the study's authors, women "who are of childbearing age and who are contemplating or at risk of becoming pregnant" are advised to avoid alcohol. Those who are pregnant shouldn't touch anything alcoholic (not a glass of champagne, not a sip of beer) throughout their pregnancies.

Of course, the risks of drinking during pregnancy are serious and not something any mother would desire. But here's some perspective from a mother who, unaware I was pregnant with my first child, did have a few glasses of wine the first few weeks of my pregnancy. Once I learned the thrilling news, I of course stopped drinking anything stronger than orange juice, but I was pretty freaked out about the potential effects of those first unknowingly irresponsible weeks until I held my perfect baby in that delivery room. So here's the message I want to convey: If you had a glass of wine or two -- a cocktail, or a beer -- in the early days of your pregnancy, before you realized you were pregnant, DO NOT PANIC.

Presumably, at this point, knowing you're pregnant, you've already stopped drinking, but if you haven't, stop now and stay dry for the rest of your pregnancy. It's never too late to start. And the odds are still in your favor that everything will be OK and you'll soon be celebrating the birth of your happy, healthy baby -- with a glass of sparkling (non-alcoholic) cider, of course.

Did you drink in the early days of your pregnancy, before you realized you were pregnant?


Image via Davide Restivo/Flickr

1st trimester, is it safe


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nonmember avatar LC

I was in Las Vegas for my birthday/honeymoon for the early part of my pregnancy. While I was there I started feeling worse and worse, terrible headaches and really bad exhaustion. I thought it was the hot weather since we went in summer. Luckily for me, being with my husband who doesn't drink at all, we didn't have the typical crazy Vegas experience. We did a lot of sight-seeing, saw a few shows and had a few drinks but pretty moderate. I guess if I was with someone who partied hard I would be more worried because we probably would have spent the seven days trashed. I felt terrible still a week after we got back and went to the doctor and found out I was pregnant. I haven't touched a drop since even though everyone (including my husband oddly, I guess he hates to see me miss wine so much) has encouraged me to just have a half a glass or wine or whatever. I won't do it! Two months to go and I can stay strong. I have diabetes, PCOS, and consider this baby a miracle anyway. I work so hard to keep my pregnancy healthy that way. Why would I jeopardize it everything for a half a glass of wine?! Not worth it!

Spaxy Spaxy

I've taken a child development class. You're right, a lot of women don't realize they're pregnant in the first couple weeks of pregnancy. Although having some alcohol may not directly produce notable defects, that doesn't mean that it doesn't impair development or affect the fetus. Especially since a baby's small body cannot process the alcohol (which can and does cross the placenta) as well as a full grown woman with a higher tolerance can. It's just best not to expose a developing fetus at all.

hutch... hutchfam2007

The placenta doesnt actually take over nourishing your baby until 6-7 weeks. It is nourished by the yolk sac or corpus luteum. I was told that teratogens do not affect the developing fetus during this state, other than in an "all or nothing" form. Either it terminates the life of the fetus or it doesnt, since things are developing so quickly any damage is irreparable. Something such as alcohol would not be strong enough to be deadly.

nonmember avatar karen

There are lots more toxins in the air than 40 years ago. And Alcohol is toxic.

tayanna2 tayanna2

My OB actually prescribed a half a glass of wine once a week to help with my anxiety. She said the little bit of alcohol was safe, but my severe panic attacks were dangerous for my pregnancy. Once I delivered I could back on my prescription. So for me it was the lesser of two evils. My daughter is happy and healthy and shows no signs of being affected. I guess what I'm trying to say is that every pregnancy is different. I didn't drink my half glass every week, but sometimes it was necessary. Studies like these are just ammunition for judgemental mom's, try not to be one. It's hard, I know.

BabyL... BabyLadyG12

The study seems stupid to me (and, no, I didn't drink while pregnant)--they relied on reported data collected every 3 months?  How much do you want to bet that heavy drinkers downplayed their consumption of alcohol and who knows what else!

Kimbyann Kimbyann

I just found out I was pregnant today and I had some kaluha last night I been scared and I don't know if the fact that it says it's bad scares me worse or the do not panic makes me feel better...

Betwe... BetweenCourses

Had an OB say to have 4 oz red wine/day for last 4 weeks to help lower bp... It worked! And prolonged pregnancy to avoid preeclamsia and preterm baby!

nonmember avatar August Fay

Nicole-Tidwell: That "study" you posted a link to is not a study, it is a fact sheet. Please learn what an actual study is before you claim expertise on a subject. The UK guidelines state that while it may increase your chance of miscarriage if you drink during the first 3 months of pregnancy, having 1-2 UK units of alcohol (about equal to 1 US pint of 4.2% AbV Guinness Draught or 1 125ml glass of wine) per week has no known effect on the child or it's development.

National Inst. of Health and Clinical Excellence, Page 10

Considering that there are no known studies of the effects of alcohol on a developing fetus, those who are worried or have a family history of complications should err on the side of caution. Otherwise, I do not believe that drinking a beer or 2 once a month will hurt you.

aj23 aj23

I had a lot to drink about two weeks before I found out. thankfully it wasn't a problem.

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