An alcohol-free pregnancy is best for your baby

-       FASD (Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders) Awareness Day: Sunday, 9 September 2018

The HSE is marking International FASD (Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders) Awareness Day by encouraging pregnant women, or those considering becoming pregnant, to have an alcohol-free pregnancy.

The prevalence of alcohol consumption during pregnancy in Ireland is high*, and exposure to alcohol can lead to life-long difficulties caused by FASD.

FASD - Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

FASD describes the range of effects that can occur when a foetus is exposed to alcohol.  These effects may be physical or mental, and can include behavioural or learning disabilities.

Dr Mary O’Mahony, HSE Specialist in Public Health Medicine says:  “These conditions may not be detected at birth, but may later show up in the form of behavioural, social, learning and attention difficulties in childhood, adolescence and throughout adulthood.”

Advice from the HSE

“There are a lot of mixed messages out there about alcohol and pregnancy. Women can often get completely different advice from friends, family, health professionals and the media and some may feel social pressure to drink during their pregnancy”, says Dr O’Mahony.  

“If you’ve had an occasional drink before you realised you were pregnant don’t be unduly worried, but once you know you are pregnant, it’s best to cut out alcohol completely.

“If you drink alcohol while you are pregnant, it passes from your bloodstream through the placenta and into the baby’s bloodstream. Alcohol can affect the baby’s development so our advice is that a completely alcohol-free pregnancy is best.

“We also want families and friends to know the positive role they can play in supporting an alcohol-free pregnancy”

Tips for an alcohol-free pregnancy and seeking support

Here are some tips from for planning an alcohol-free pregnancy:

  • Have a good support network around you to help you during your pregnancy – explain your reasons for not drinking so that your friends and family can support you
  • Ask your partner to stop or cut down on their drinking. This is also  important for people trying to conceive as alcohol can affect fertility
  • Plan ahead how you will manage any temptation to drink or pressure, especially if you think it will be hard to stick to your decision
  • If a lot of your time was previously spent socialising and drinking, think about other hobbies or activities that you might enjoy away from alcohol.
  • When you’re out, you’ll find lots of healthy alcohol-free alternatives like flavoured sparkling water, soft drinks and more.

If you find it hard to stop drinking, talk to your midwife, GP or local alcohol service or call the HSE Drug and Alcohol Helpline from Monday to Friday 9.30-5.30pm on 1800 459 459 

Partners, family and friends

Partners, family and friends can help support an alcohol free pregnancy by reducing alcohol intake or giving up for the duration of the pregnancy, not putting pressure on someone to drink if they are pregnant and helping to plan activities that don’t involve alcohol.

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Last updated on: 07 / 09 / 2018