Can I Drink Wine While Pregnant?

Waiter serving wine

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Pregnancy comes with a big list of things you can no longer do, and drinking alcohol is right up at the top. But you may be wondering whether that applies to all types of alcohol or whether a limited amount of wine is OK later on in pregnancy.

When doctors first identified fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) (then called fetal alcohol syndrome), they urged people who were expecting to abstain from binge drinking. FASDs was associated with heavy drinking, so it makes you wonder whether you really can't have a single glass of wine at the end of the workweek.

Turns out, you should really just find another way to unwind. "There is no safe way in which to drink wine or other alcohol while pregnant," says Daniel Roshan, MD, a New York City-based leading board-certified high-risk maternal-fetal OBGYN. "Alcohol is a known teratogen and cannot be considered safe for consumption during pregnancy in any amount."

Drinking Wine During Pregnancy

Wine is not considered safe to drink at any time during pregnancy. "If you choose to continue drinking alcohol while pregnant, your baby is at high risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders which can range from mild to severe craniofacial malformation, preterm delivery, or spontaneous abortion as well as neurodevelopmental delays and behavioral issues," cautions Dr. Roshan.

Heavy drinking and binge drinking (four or more drinks in a two-hour period) while pregnant increases the likelihood that a baby will be born with FASDs. That being said, there is no known threshold of how much alcohol you can safely drink.

"Drinking alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy can cause the baby to have abnormal facial features," says Harland Adkins, a registered dietitian nutritionist and healthcare professional. However, consuming alcohol throughout the rest of pregnancy still puts your baby at risk of developing FASDs. "Growth and central nervous system problems like low birth weight and behavioral problems can occur from drinking alcohol anytime during pregnancy," Adkins adds.

Consuming wine or other alcohol also increases your risk of miscarriage or stillbirth. This risk increases the more you drink, says Dr. Roshan.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about drinking wine while pregnant.

Is it Safe for Baby?

Drinking wine during pregnancy is not considered safe for a developing fetus. This includes any amount of wine at any point in pregnancy.

Benefits of Wine During Pregnancy

Any kind of alcohol consumption puts your baby at risk for birth defects, learning problems, and more, overruling any potential benefits, like the antioxidants in red wine or help with sleep or relaxation.

Safety Precautions

Drinking wine during pregnancy raises your baby's risk of being born with FASDs. "Alcohol is easily passed along to the baby, whose body is less able to get rid of alcohol than the mother's," Adkins explains. "An unborn baby tends to develop a high concentration of alcohol, which stays in the baby's system for longer periods than it would in the mother's...possibly damaging a baby's developing nervous system."

FASDs is associated with birth defects and developmental and cognitive delays in children.

Birth Defects

Drinking wine during pregnancy puts your child at risk of being born with birth defects. These include low body weight, shorter than average height, small head size, and abnormal facial features. Consuming alcohol in the first trimester contributes to the risk of facial deformities.

Developmental Problems

Babies with FASDs may have sleep disturbances and problems sucking. Their vision and hearing may be impacted and they may have problems with their heart, kidney, or bones. As they grow, these children may struggle with coordination and hyperactive behavior.

Learning Delays

FADs may cause learning delays that impact school performance and a person's overall quality of life. When the expecting parent drinks alcohol, babies are at risk of developing learning disabilities, speech and language delays, and poor reasoning skills. In school, they may have trouble paying attention and struggle in math.

Pregnancy Loss

Drinking while pregnant raises the risk of miscarriage, especially during the first trimester. The more you drink, the higher that risk becomes.

When Can I Resume Drinking Wine?

It is OK to drink wine after you deliver your baby, but Adkins advises waiting until after you and your baby have been checked over and, if you choose to, you've tried breastfeeding for the first time. Once the umbilical cord is cut, there is no longer a risk of passing alcohol to your baby through your blood.

If you are breastfeeding, know that a small amount of alcohol does pass through your milk. "Alcohol and breastfeeding remains controversial but the recommendation currently is to delay breastfeeding by two hours for every serving of alcohol," Dr. Roshan notes.

You may have heard of people who "pump and dump" to rid their bodies of milk that potentially has alcohol in it while maintaining their milk supply, but Dr. Roshan says that this is not usually necessary. "There is no reason to [pump and dump] unless your breasts become engorged and not enough time has elapsed since your last drink to feed your baby."

Pregnancy Safe Alternatives

If wine was your go-to for relaxation or your preferred drink at social gatherings, you may wonder what to replace it with for the duration of your pregnancy. Here are a few alcohol-free alternatives to sip until after your newborn arrives.

Ginger Tea

A hot cup of water with fresh ginger and a touch of honey can help relax you. If you miss wine because it helps you unwind after a long day, consider this alternative.

Mocktails

Alcohol-free cocktails are a good choice for social gatherings if you want a fun drink that's safe while you are pregnant. There are plenty of delicious recipes out there that will make you forget that they don't have alcohol in them.

Sparkling Apple Cider

If you want to make a toast, go for sparkling apple cider. It looks and tastes a lot like champagne!

A Word From Verywell

No amount of alcohol is safe at any point during pregnancy. Drinking more alcohol heightens the risks to your unborn child, but there is no known safe amount. FASDs is preventable if you abstain from alcohol.

It is never too late to stop drinking. If you have been consuming alcohol during your pregnancy, stopping now will reduce your child's risk of being born with FASDs. If you want to stop drinking and you need help, or you have any questions about drinking wine during pregnancy, always reach out to a healthcare provider.

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