Drinking alcohol at any stage during pregnancy can cause harm to your baby and the more you drink, the greater the risk. This is why the UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) alcohol unit guideline advice to pregnant women is that the safest approach is to not drink alcohol at all during pregnancy.
The more you drink when you're pregnant, the greater the risk there is to your baby’s health. Miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and small birth weight are all associated with a mother’s drinking during pregnancy. (1)
View our Alcohol and pregnancy facts page for the full details of the CMO's advice about drinking alcohol in pregnancy.
What is foetal alcohol syndrome?
A condition which is linked to drinking alcohol in pregnancy which affects the way a baby’s brain develops is called Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). The condition was first identified in America in 1973 and how serious the condition is thought be related to how much alcohol a mother drank during pregnancy.
Children with FAS have problems with their neurological development, abnormal growth, and have characteristic facial features that result from their foetal exposure to alcohol.(2)
Neurological problems are caused by damage to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). The problems experienced are likely to change as an infant grows up and different problems may be seen at different stages of development, from childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood.
These may include: learning disabilities, poor academic achievement, poor organisation, lack of inhibition, difficulty writing or drawing, balance problems, attention and hyperactivity problems.
Children with FAS have problems with their neurological development, abnormal growth and have characteristic facial features which result from their foetal exposure to alcohol.
The characteristic facial features can include: small and narrow eyes, a small head, a smooth area between the nose and the lips and a thin upper lip.
Children with FAS can also occasionally have additional problems such as:
- Hearing and ear problems
- Height and weight issues
- Hormonal disorders
- Liver damage
- Kidney and heart defects
- Mouth, teeth and facial problems
- Weak immune system