Avoiding Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Should I Quit Drinking When Trying to Conceive?

Here's what you need to know about drinking alcohol during pregnancy -- so you can make the best decision for your future baby's health.
Stockbyte/ Veer Images

Planning a baby is pretty great (lots of sex!), but it's also a little nerve-racking (what if I don't get pregnant?). Along the way, you'll no doubt cruise the Web for the latest conception advice and nutrition news. But it's definitely the health information that's most critical as you start on the path to pregnancy -- especially when it comes to avoiding fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

"A healthy lifestyle is a must before conception, which means women should maintain their weight, or lose some if necessary, take a multivitamin with at least 400 mcg of folic acid, quit smoking, and refrain from consuming alcohol," says David Garry, D.O., a spokesperson for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, NY.

Luckily, smoking is less popular than ever in the United States, but the drinking issue still seems to confuse some women. Read on for the lowdown on alcohol consumption, fetal alcohol syndrome and conception.

Does the timing matter?

"What you drink, the amount consumed, and a woman's genetic predisposition to alcohol make it difficult to pinpoint the exact moments when drinking shouldn't occur in pregnancy," Dr. Garry says. But experts do know that the earlier exposure to alcohol occurs, the greater the chance of more serious damage. "The best choice when planning a pregnancy is to abstain -- there is no safe alcohol, no safe time, and no safe amount," says Kathy Mitchell, vice president and spokesperson for the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS).

Is even one drink potentially risky?

Yes, especially considering that a "glass of wine" can hold anywhere from 5 to 16 ounces of alcohol, Mitchell says. Any amount of alcohol, even a single glass of wine, passes through the placenta to the fetus. Developing babies don't have the ability to process alcohol in the liver and other organs, so they absorb it all in the bloodstream and end up with the same concentration as the mother. "The research is very clear that alcohol is a teratogen -- an agent that causes cell death and is toxic to the fetus," Mitchell explains. "Drinking 'a little' just isn't worth the risk."

What if I don't want to stop drinking -- or can't?

Dealing with a drinking problem is a tough issue to face, but it's made even harder when pregnancy is a possibility. "Risky drinking (defined as three drinks in one day) or binge drinking (four or more) can increase the likelihood of FAS," Dr. Garry says. Alcohol dependence can be confirmed if you have three or more of the following symptoms:

  • Tolerance, or the need to drink more and more to achieve the same "high"
  • Withdrawal symptoms (nausea, sweating, anxiety, shaking) after stopping
  • Drinking larger amounts of alcohol or over a longer period
  • Desire or unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control drinking
  • Spending a great deal of time drinking or recovering from it
  • Reducing or giving up on work or on social or recreational activities because of drinking
  • Continuing to drink when you know you have a problem

If you believe you have a drinking problem and need help, contact your health care provider for a treatment referral. Admitting the issue and taking steps to address it will go a long way toward affecting your health -- and that of any child you hope to conceive.

Is it okay to have a glass of wine every so often while pregnant? Here's the truth about alcohol and your fetus.

Copyright © 2014 Meredith Corporation.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

2 Comments

  1. Hello everyone out here,

    thank you so much Dr climent Scott finally am pregnant and am having my own baby soon i still cant believe it after 3 years of trying my partner and i almost gave up on till a friend of mine ask me too contact you that you can help us with your Natural MED which my Husband ask us too give it a try and really we took the MED for one month and now am pregnant i really want too thank the God that lead us too you, you really help us am so happy and excited than you once again if you are TTC i will advice you too contact him too he will help you out ...

    Drclimentscott@gmail.com or WhatsApp him via... +2347036879479 thank you.

  2. Hello! Hello!! Hello!!! Viewers Great opportunity is out now……Do anyone still doubt natural herbs? We all know that herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, prompting many to wonder how to get rid of herpes naturally. Unfortunately, they did not find a definite solution to herpes but today i have bring you the great opportunity we all have been waiting for because I’ve seen the great importance of natural herbs and the wonderful work they have done in people’s lives. I wonder why people still spend their money on surgery, injections and drugs each time they are sick or diagnose. Natural herbs can cure all kinds of illness including herpes, diabetics, asthma, HIV, hepatitis, etc. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I was cured of Herpes and my aunt and her husband were cured of HIV by Dr. Oduku who uses natural herbs to cure different kind of illness. Even Dr. Oduku have prove to the whole world that natural herbs can cure all diseases and it cured countless of people using natural herbs. I know is hard to believe but am a living testimony. There is no harm in trying herbs.You can reach Dr Oduku through his email at dr.odukuherbalremedies@gmail.com or https://naturalherbalremedyblog.wordpress.com

    God bless you!!



Parents may receive compensation when you click through and purchase from links contained on this website.