Pregnancy and alcohol
Pregnant women often receive conflicting advice about drinking alcohol during pregnancy. This is because the exact level of alcohol at which harm starts to be caused, has not been clearly established.
The current advice is, if you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant, do not drink any alcohol as it can damage your unborn baby.
If you find out you're pregnant after already having drunk during early pregnancy, avoid any further drinking, it's unlikely in most cases that your baby has been affected.
Risks to your baby
There is limited evidence to show low levels of alcohol consumption causes harm. However, absence of evidence does not mean drinking alcohol is safe.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can carry risks to your baby, such as:
- growth retardation
- still birth
- premature delivery
- Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
Children born with FAS have been exposed to high levels of alcohol throughout pregnancy and have very defined facial features or defects. They also often have problems with their growth and development and have life long behavioural and learning problems.
Children with FASD often look healthy and have normal facial features, but they can have issues such as sight and hearing difficulties, problems paying attention and following simple directions, as well as other lifelong learning difficulties.
How much are you drinking?
It takes a woman’s liver about 60 to 90 minutes to breakdown one unit of alcohol. One unit is the equivalent of half pint of regular beer, or a small glass of wine. A standard glass of wine, or a pint of ordinary beer is approximately 2 units.
The placenta does not act as a barrier to alcohol passing through the bloodstream to your unborn baby and they do not have a fully developed liver or have the capacity to process alcohol like an adult.
Use our alcohol calculator to check your units
Tips for avoiding alcohol in pregnancy
Some tips to help you avoid alcohol in pregnancy:
- have a good support network around you to help you during your pregnancy
- ask your partner to stop or cut down on their drinking, particularly if you're still trying to conceive
- stay as active as you can, continuing with your regular hobbies and interests
- if a lot of your time was previously spent socialising and drinking, then look for new hobbies you will enjoy or meet your friends at a cafe rather than a bar
- if you're going out when pregnant then choose fruit juices or non-alcoholic alternatives
- make sure you look after yourself and your unborn child by eating healthily and exercising, as well as not smoking or taking other harmful drugs
How to get help
If you're concerned about your drinking or you're struggling to stop, help is available. Talk to your doctor or midwife.
If you think you're alcohol dependent and drinking daily, do not stop using alcohol suddenly. Get advice immediately from your GP or midwife so you can receive the right treatment to ensure the safety of you and your baby.
The Alcohol Pathway Team
The Alcohol Pathway Team provides free advice and support and accepts direct referrals.
You can contact them for advice on +44 (0) 1534 445008 or by email: A&Dservice@health.gov.je they are open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5pm.
Alcohol issues and getting help