Home > BUMPS: Best use of medicines in pregnancy - Alcohol.

UK Teratology Information Service. (2024) BUMPS: Best use of medicines in pregnancy - Alcohol. London: UK Teratology Information Service.

External website: https://www.medicinesinpregnancy.org/Medicine--pre...

This factsheet has been written for members of the public by the UK Teratology Information Service (UKTIS). UKTIS is a not-for-profit organisation funded by Public Health England on behalf of UK Health Departments. UKTIS has been providing scientific information to health care providers since 1983 on the effects that medicines, recreational drugs and chemicals may have on the developing baby during pregnancy.

Alcohol consumed at any stage of pregnancy can reach the baby. In the earliest stages of pregnancy the developing embryo gets its nutrients from a structure called the yolk sac. Alcohol from the mother’s bloodstream can pass into the yolk sac. From around ten to twelve weeks of pregnancy the placenta starts to function. From this point, alcohol can cross the placenta and enter the bloodstream of the fetus. Babies in the womb cannot process alcohol in the same way as an adult and, as a result, alcohol remains in the baby’s brain and body for several hours after it has been cleared from the mother’s bloodstream.

Exposure to alcohol in the womb can cause lifelong problems with learning and behaviour, as well as some birth defects, miscarriage and stillbirth. While the strongest chance of these problems has been most clearly linked to heavy drinking, studies have not been able to prove that drinking any amount of alcohol whilst pregnant is safe. Additionally, some unborn babies are likely to be more susceptible to the effects of lower levels of alcohol exposure than others. It is for these reasons that the Department of Health in the UK recommends that alcohol should be avoided for the full nine months of pregnancy and, ideally, whilst trying to conceive. If you need help to do this you can ask your doctor or midwife for information on the support available.....

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