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Alcohol and pregnancy

There is no shortage of advice about alcohol and pregnancy. Sometimes the advice can be contradictory and each woman (and pregnancy) is different.

The best advice is to avoid drinking alcohol when you are pregnant or trying to conceive. If you do decide to drink, however, then make sure it is no more than one or two units, just once or twice a week, and don't get drunk. If you stick to this, the evidence suggests it's highly unlikely you'll harm your baby.

Trying to conceive

If you are trying to get pregnant, you need to be aware that the amount you drink can reduce your fertility and ability to conceive. Excessive drinking, especially getting drunk, can even lead to a miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy. The safest approach is not to drink at all, or at least significantly reduce your alcohol consumption. So if you're trying to become pregnant, drink no more than one or two units of alcohol once or twice a week and avoid getting drunk.

If you are pregnant

When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, the alcohol passes through the placenta and can affect the baby's development. This happens throughout the pregnancy, not just in the first few weeks. Excessive drinking can lead to low weight at birth and can also affect the physical and mental development of the child. This condition is known as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).

Getting drunk is particularly risky. The advice is avoid alcohol or drink no more than one or two units once or twice a week. One UK unit contains eight grams of pure alcohol and it's the strength and size of a drink that determines how many units it has.

Alcohol and breastfeeding

Alcohol passes to the baby in small amounts in breast milk. The milk will smell different to the baby and may affect their feeding, sleeping or digestion. The best advice is to avoid drinking shortly before a baby's feed. Whether you're breastfeeding or not, the recommended daily benchmark for women of between two and three units of alcohol a day is a useful guide. The benchmark applies whether you drink every day, once or twice a week, or occasionally.

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