Alcohol and Perinatal Health

In 2005, the U.S. Surgeon General released an advisory on Alcohol Use in Pregnancy that urged women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant to abstain from alcohol. This advisory still applies today.

When a woman is pregnant, her baby drinks what she drinks. Beer and wine, as well as liquor, can hurt unborn babies.Based on scientific research, we know that:

  • Alcohol consumed during pregnancy increases the risk of alcohol-related birth defects, including growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities, central nervous system impairment, behavioral disorders, and impaired intellectual development.
  • No amount of alcohol consumption can be considered safe during pregnancy.
  • Alcohol can damage a fetus at any stage of pregnancy. Damage can occur in the earliest weeks of pregnancy, even before a woman knows that she is pregnant.
  • The cognitive deficits and behavioral problems resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure are lifelong.
  • Alcohol-related birth defects are completely preventable.

There is no safe level of alcohol consumption for pregnant women. Every drink is one too many.Therefore, as a result of these facts it is strongly recommended that:

  • A pregnant woman should not drink alcohol during pregnancy.
  • A pregnant woman who has already consumed alcohol during her pregnancy should stop in order to minimize further risk.
  • A woman who is considering becoming pregnant should abstain from alcohol.
  • Recognizing that over half of all births in the United States are unplanned, women of child-bearing age should consult their physician and take steps to reduce the possibility of prenatal alcohol exposure.
  • Health professionals should inquire routinely about alcohol consumption by women of childbearing age, inform them of the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and advise them not to drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy.

What is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)?

alcoholperinatalhealth Alcohol can cause babies to be born with a spectrum of disorders. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a term used to describe the wide range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications.

Alcohol-related birth defects can cause infants/children to:
- be born with low birth weight;
- have problems eating, sleeping, seeing and hearing;
- have trouble following directions and learning how to do simple things;
- have trouble paying attention and learning in school;
- need medical care all their lives;
- need special teachers and schools; and have trouble getting along with others and controlling their behavior.

Source: New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS)

For more information visit:
- Surgeon General's Advisory on Alcohol Use in Pregnancy
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – SAMHSA’s National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information
- SAMHSA’s FASD Center
- National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Recursos en Español

- Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades
- Enlaces en Internet del CDC sobre SAF
- El Centro EDAF de SAMHSA
- Instituto Nacional sobre el Abuso de Alcohol y Alcoholismo
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