Alcohol & Pregnancy

Can I drink a glass of wine during pregnancy and/or while breastfeeding?

This is quite a common question lots of women ask themselves. Often it is not so easy to say: “No, thanks”.
What to do on holidays, on a special birthday, during a party?

Alcohol and impact during pregnancy

Most women know that pregnancy and alcohol is not a good combination. Nevertheless, the belief persists that an occasional glass does not harm. But the fact is that any alcohol consumption can seriously harm the unborn child. As a consequence, there can be facial changes, growth retardation and even abnormalities of the central nervous system. 

There is no precise information on how much alcohol could still be harmless to the baby and when the child's health and development are at risk. This is due to many different factors such as the mother's alcohol metabolism, the amount of alcohol consumed and the stage of development of the fetus. During the pregnancy, the child is supplied with all necessary nutrients by the mother through the umbilical cord. Every sip of alcohol that the mother-to-be drinks reaches the child's bloodstream within a few minutes.  What lot’s of people forget is that alcohol is a cell poison. It inhibits cell division and organ formation. It also impairs brain development and is a common cause of conspicuous behaviour in the later childhood.

Damages of alcohol to the unborn

The damage ranges from fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) to the full screen of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Children with FASD may be permanently severely impaired in their mental and physical development. FAS is the most common cause of intellectual disability (even before Trisomie 21!). The damage is irreversible. Less than ten percent of children with FAS are later able to lead an independent life, 20 to 40 percent later become alcohol-dependent themselves. 

alcohol consumption not knowing you are pregnant

But what if you are pregnant, don't know about it and accidentally drink alcohol? As a rule, the all-or-nothing principle applies in the first two weeks. A successful nesting after 14 days also means that the fertilized ovum has survived everything well by then.  After 2 weeks the embryo is supplied with nutrients through the mother's bloodstream. So you must not be in panic when you have a positive pregnancy test and drank some  alcohol in the first two weeks of being pregnant. 

But for the rest of pregnancy and during breastfeeding it is better to be on the safe side, therefore the recommendation is: not a drop of alcohol.


January 2020
Dr. Christine Krämer, M.D.
This blog post has been prepared with the greatest possible care and does not claim to be correct, complete or up-to-date.“

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