For Professionals: Alcohol and pregnancy

Pregnant women should not drink alcohol anytime during pregnancy. There is no safe type of alcohol, amount of alcohol or time to drink during pregnancy. Women who drink during pregnancy put their baby at risk for stillbirth, miscarriage and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs).

FASDs affect an estimated 800 to 8,000 babies born in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FASDs are 100 percent preventable.

Because a woman may not know she has become pregnant for a number of weeks, it is important for health care professionals to screen and address patients who may have risky alcohol use.

How to screen and intervene:

1. Identify women with risky levels.

  • At-risk alcohol use is defined as more than seven drinks per week or more than three drinks per occasion for non-pregnant women and any alcohol use for pregnant women.
  • All women who plan to become pregnant or are pregnant should be screened for alcohol use. Most women who have risky alcohol levels do not show signs during a physical examination. It is important to ask detailed questions and for a medical history.

2. Encourage healthy behaviors through intervention.

  • Educating women about their drinking levels and ways to reduce their use, such as choosing to surround themselves with others who do not drink, can be beneficial.
  • Request a follow-up appointment.

3. Refer alcohol-dependent patients for professional treatment.

The CDC recommends this guideline for referral and diagnosis of patients who have a high risk of developing a FASD. Information provided by the CDC and Medscape.