Alcohol: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Alcohol and pregnancy don't mix

A baby exposed to alcohol before birth is at risk for physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. These disabilities are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). FASDs affect up to one in 20 children in the United States.  No amount of alcohol use is known to be safe during pregnancy. Exposure to alcohol from any type of beverage, including beer and wine, is unsafe for developing babies at every stage of pregnancy. 

Impact on babies

During pregnancy, a developing baby is exposed to the same concentration of alcohol as the pregnant person. This can impact the baby's development. Fetal alcohol syndrome is one of the many FASDs. Fetal alcohol syndrome is characterized by growth deficiencies, central nervous system disabilities, and specific facial characteristics. 

Prenatal alcohol exposure increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, and sudden infant death syndrome.

Make a plan for a healthy baby

Don’t drink any alcohol if you are pregnant or could become pregnant. A person often does not know they are pregnant for up to four to six weeks after conception. In the U.S., nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned. If you become pregnant, stop drinking alcohol. Every day matters. Because brain growth takes place throughout pregnancy, the sooner a person stops drinking the safer it will be for the person and their baby.

Support is available

Obstetricians, pediatricians, nurses, and other health care providers understand the risks of alcohol use and can help pregnant people make the best choices for the health of their baby. In Wisconsin, pregnant people are given priority for substance use treatment. Call 211 or 833-944-4673 to find a local treatment center or visit the Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline website.

Last Revised: August 30, 2021