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Alcohol and Pregnancy: Why Take the Risk?

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. How much do you know about alcohol use during pregnancy?

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects can include physical, behavioral, and learning problems. Often, a person with an FASD has a mix of these problems. FASDs can be completely prevented if a woman does not drink alcohol during pregnancy.

What We Know

  • There is no guaranteed safe level of alcohol use at any time during your pregnancy or even when you're trying to get pregnant.
  • Alcohol can cause problems for your unborn baby throughout your pregnancy, including before you know you are pregnant.
  • All kinds of alcohol should be avoided, including red or white wine, beer, and liquor.
  • If you are pregnant and have been drinking, it's never too late to stop.

Reasons Why

  • When you drink, your baby drinks, and that can lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).
  • FASDs include a wide range of physical and mental disabilities and lasting emotional and behavioral problems.
  • You may not know right away if your child has been affected. FASDs include a range of physical and intellectual disabilities that are not always easy to identify when a child is a newborn. Some of these effects may not be recognized until your child is in school.

What You Can Do

  • FASDs can be completely prevented. By not drinking, you have the power to improve your child's chances of a healthy start.
  • The sooner you stop drinking, the better it will be for both you and your baby. If you are pregnant and have been drinking, talk to your doctor or nurse.
  • If you are not able to stop drinking, talk to your doctor or nurse. Resources are available to help you.
  • There is no cure for FASDs. However, identifying children with these conditions as early as possible can help them to reach their full potential.

How to Find Help in Your Area

  • Are you looking for local services for diagnosis, intervention, support groups, or treatment for women? The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) offers an online directory of services available in each state.
  • Click on your state in the NOFAS National Resource Directory (

Resource for Women's Health Care Providers

Alcohol and Women: How to Screen and Intervene
In this CDC Expert Commentary in partnership with Medscape, Dr. Joe Sniezek discusses steps health care providers can take to detect and intervene with women who drink alcohol at risky levels. Advice is based on guidance from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. View Video at



April 22, 2013

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