Can you Drink Alcohol while Trying to get Pregnant?

As summer kicks into full swing, so do the fun festivities that come with it.  With parties, barbecues, and vacations coming up, you might be wondering if you can drink while trying to conceive. As it turns out, there is some disagreement around this topic. The majority of experts warn you to stay away from alcohol entirely, while other sources claim that it’s not necessary and that it is perfectly fine to drink in moderation. 

Most women avoid alcohol once they find out that they are pregnant, aware that the first part of pregnancy is when the fetus is most vulnerable. According to a recent study, this isn’t the case when women are still in the 'trying to conceive,' stage. Researchers found that among 5,036 women, 55% reported using alcohol in the first trimester, usually before they knew they were expecting. Though only half of all pregnancies in the US are planned, 70 percent of these women got pregnant intentionally—and still, over half of them confessed to drinking leading up to their pregnancy.

 

So, are they doing anything harmful?

 

Perhaps not. A study in Denmark in 2012 showed that light to moderate drinking during pregnancy didn’t have negative effects on the child. Participants that consumed 8 or less drinks per week had children with normal intelligence, attention, and self-control. However, having more than 9 drinks per week was tied to negative effects. Also, alcohol may impact more than the child, it may also impact your fertility. The jury, however, is still out on whether drinking in moderation or not alcohol negatively impacts fertility (source)

 

Does this mean that you can throw back a glass of rosé without any worry? Not so fast! There are still factors in play that haven’t yet been studied. Genetics play a large role in a woman’s ability to metabolize alcohol, which could make certain women more likely to experience negative effects of prenatal drinking. 

 

The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome holds that women trying to conceive should not drink at all, because of a lack of firm and definitive research on the subject. The CDC and US Surgeon General also express that “There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant. There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink and no safe kind of alcohol.”  As stated by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to infants with “slow growth and developmental delay, unusual facial features, irritability, brain and neurological disorders, intellectual disabilities and problems with emotional attachment.”

 

Statements like these can be very frightening. However, the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology shows that very mild alcohol use during the first trimester doesn’t seem to have negative effects. Because there isn’t authoritative research around a safe level of alcohol to drink while trying to conceive, doctors tell patients to avoid alcohol completely.

 

For the women who unknowingly enjoyed a few drinks during early pregnancy, you may not be in trouble. According to Dr. Howard LeWine M.D., Chief Medical Editor for Harvard Health “Many women are pregnant for a while before they know it. Does their alcohol consumption during the time they were pregnant but didn’t realize it doom their child? No. They almost surely did no harm to their unborn children.”

And of course, there is the time frame each month during your non-fertile days that pregnancy is not possible. Should you avoid alcohol on your non-fertile days as well? The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) does not recommend drinking at all when trying to conceive. Not all healthcare providors agree with this recommendation, so you may wish to talk to your doctor about what is best for you.

While erring on the side of caution is never a bad thing, having a drink while trying to conceive may not be the end of the world; just gather your facts and make an informed choice.

Sources:

1. NCBI 

2. Health Land 

3. NOFAS 

4. AACAP Facts for Familes 

5. Harvard Health 

 

 

 

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