MotherToBaby is joining the cause to increase awareness of the risks of drinking alcohol while pregnant as September’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Month kicks off. It is estimated that 40,000 babies are born each year with FASDs, which describe a range of effects that can happen to a fetus when a woman drinks alcohol during her pregnancy.1 The U.S. Surgeon General advises pregnant women and women who are considering becoming pregnant to abstain from alcohol consumption to eliminate FASD.2

When alcohol is consumed during pregnancy, the mother’s blood passes the alcohol to the baby through the placenta and the umbilical cord. There is no known safe amount or type of alcohol to drink during pregnancy. There is also no safe time to drink during pregnancy, including before a woman knows she is pregnant. FASDs can impact children’s physical, mental, behavioral, or cognitive development. It considered the most preventable form of mental retardation.

To prevent FASDs, a woman should not drink alcohol while she is pregnant or if she might be pregnant. “There is a huge number of women that don’t know that they’re pregnant so they are behaving in that period of time the same way they would behave if they weren’t pregnant,” said Kenneth Lyons Jones, MD, MotherToBaby president and one of two doctors who first identified the most severe form of FASD, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), in 1973. “It’s a major problem when it comes to FASD, but it’s important to note that it’s never too late to stop drinking.” Because brain growth takes place throughout pregnancy, the sooner a woman stops drinking, her baby’s chances for a healthier outcome increases.

For a personalized risk assessment, as well as resources about the effects of alcohol during pregnancy, contact MotherToBaby toll-FREE from anywhere in North America at 866-626-6847. We also have a Fact Sheet on alcohol in pregnancy available in English and in Spanish. You’re also encouraged to read information from our partners at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

1May PA & Gossage JP. Estimating the prevalence of fetal alcohol syndrome: A summary. Alcohol Research & Health 2001;25(3):159–167.

2US Department of Health and Human Services. US Surgeon General releases advisory on alcohol use in pregnancy. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2005.