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A woman holding a glass of wine

Why you shouldn’t Drink Alcohol in Pregnancy

During pregnancy, it is crucial to prioritise the health of both mother and child. Avoiding alcohol consumption is an important step to safeguard your baby's well-being. The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RCOG) strongly recommends complete abstinence from consuming any alcohol during pregnancy. This is because there is no scientifically proven safe level of alcohol consumption that does not pose potential harm to the developing fetus.

Key messages - Why you shouldn't drink alcohol during pregnancy.

  • Current Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology guidance is that you should avoid drinking alcohol if you are trying to get pregnant, pregnant or breastfeeding. 
  • Even though the risks are low with small amounts of alcohol, there is not a known safe limit of alcohol during pregnancy and so avoiding altogether is the safest approach.
  • Drinking alcohol during pregnancy may affect your baby’s development and long-term health.
  • Heavy drinking in pregnancy can cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome – causing physical and mental disabilities. 

I have just found out I am pregnant and have been drinking alcohol – is my baby ok?

Don’t worry, the risk of your baby being affected are low. Stop drinking as soon as you find out and speak to a doctor or midwife if concerned. It’s also best to stop drinking when trying for a baby. 

How does alcohol affect my baby?

When you drink, alcohol passes across the placenta to your baby. The more you drink, the higher the risk to your baby. Drinking in pregnancy is associated with the following risks:

  • Miscarriage 
  • Premature labour 
  • Low birth weight 
  • Fetal growth restriction
  • Stillbirth 
  • Brain development 

Heavy alcohol use in pregnancy is associated with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) or the more severe Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).  Children with FAS and FASD can cause problems with:


  • Behaviour, such as hyperactivity and impulse control 
  • Emotional and social difficulties 
  • Learning difficulties
  • Difficulty with speech 
  • Psychiatric problems 
  • Physical disabilities 


These issues last a lifetime. 

What about breastfeeding? Can I drink alcohol when feeding?

Alcohol does pass into breast milk and reaches its highest concentration approximately 30-60 minutes after an alcoholic beverage is consumed. Generally, it’s best not to drink while breastfeeding, but the occasional drink (no more than 1 standard drink a day) is unlikely to harm your baby, particularly if you wait 2-3 hours again before nursing. Excessive and heavy drinking whilst breastfeeding can affect milk supply and even the baby’s sleep patterns and development. 

What is the pump and dump method?


There may be an occasion, birthday or celebration where a breast-feeding mother might want to have more than 1 alcoholic drink and therefore wants to avoid breast feeding whilst her breast milk still contains traces of alcohol. In this instance, in order to maintain supply of breast milk, mothers may continue to pump or express milk and discard it (really only an option if the baby will take a bottle of previously expressed breast milk or formula).

Getting help with stopping drinking Alcohol

If you are having difficulty stopping drinking, please speak to your doctor or midwife who can support you. There are lots of organisations who can help you, please see below to find the nearest to your local area:

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. For The Creators has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.

Dr Anna Cantlay

Dr Anna Cantlay - GP and Chief Medical Officer at For The Creators

Dr Anna Cantlay is an experienced NHS and private GP based in London.

Anna’s priority and passion is making healthcare convenient, accessible and personalised to you and your family. Anna is passionate about Womens Healthcare and is a Menopause specialist.

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