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Alcohol in Pregnancy

Planning a pregnancy or trying to conceive

If you are trying to conceive a baby then it is best to avoid alcohol or severely restrict your alcohol intake to one or two units of alcohol a week and do not get drunk (the government's advice is not to consume alcohol in pregnancy at all!) If you do this then the evidence would suggest that you are very unlikely to harm your baby.

Be aware that, if you are trying to conceive a baby, high consumption of alcohol or getting drunk can affect your ability to conceive. Also heavy drinking may cause miscarriage. It is safest to avoid drinking altogether or consume very minimal amounts.

When you are pregnant

Be aware that alcohol passes through the placenta to the baby and can affect the baby's development - this applies not only in the early stages of pregnancy but throughout the pregnancy. Binge or heavy drinking could cause the condition called Foetal Alcohol Syndrome which affects the development of the child and can cause low birth weight with all its associated risks.

Heavy Drinking

It is advised that only very low quantities of alcohol be consumed in pregnancy and therefore do your very best to avoid heavy drinking. If you have been a heavy drinker prior to conception then it is probably a very good time to review your drinking habits, not only for the sake of the new baby, but for your own long term health also. If you need help then consult your GP who will be very happy to offer you sound advice and guidance. Many women give up drinking completely during pregnancy.

Binge drinking in early pregnancy

Often women are unaware in the early stages of pregnancy - especially in unplanned pregnancies - that they are pregnant. It may be that they have had heavy drinking sessions during this time and when they discover they are pregnant they worry in case they have caused harm to their unborn child. The advice is not to panic but to limit alcohol consumption as advised above as soon as they are aware that they are pregnant. Tell your doctor of any concerns that you may have in this regard and he will advise accordingly and monitor the development of the baby if required.

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