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How Does Drinking Alcohol Affect a Pregnancy?

Have you recently found yourself pondering this question, “How does drinking alcohol affect a pregnancy?”  Perhaps you’re experiencing an unexpected pregnancy and thinking about carrying to term…but, you believe you may have been drinking during the pregnancy, before you made this discovery, and you’re worried about the possible implications.  Maybe you’re considering any (or all) of your options: abortion, adoption, and parenting.  No matter your circumstances, you’re taking a wise step by seeking information about the effects of consuming alcohol during pregnancy.

Concerns about prenatal drinking during an unexpected pregnancy can add tension and confusion to an already tense, confusing situation.  You may or may not be someone who struggles with alcohol misuse.  Your choices around drinking may or may not be influencing your pregnancy decision-making process.  Avenue Women’s Center is here to meet you with compassion and support- never judgment- no matter where you stand. 

Learn more about Avenue!  Since 1981, we’ve been offering a safe space for persons facing circumstances like yours to gather information, process their next steps, and discover a positive outcome.

Understanding the Impacts of Prenatal Drinking

Alcohol use always poses a risk to a pregnancy.  According to the CDC, there’s no known “safe” amount of alcohol that’s okay to drink during pregnancy, and no known stage of pregnancy when it’s safe to drink alcohol.  So, alcohol can be harmful to a pregnancy early on, even before a woman realizes that she is pregnant.

But, why is alcohol dangerous to a growing pregnancy?  When any alcoholic substance enters the bloodstream by way of the umbilical cord, it can negatively impact the development of the brain and other important organs (NIH National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).  This, “can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities… known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs)” (CDC).  Here are a few features and behaviors that can result from a FASD, according to the CDC:

  • Unusual facial characteristics
  • Smaller head
  • Shorter height
  • Lower weight
  • Negatively impacted coordination
  • Hyperactivity
  • Attention problems
  • Memory problems
  • And more

Getting Information and Support

If you’re unexpectedly pregnant, and you believe that your pregnancy has been exposed to alcohol, consider following up with a doctor (that’s a wise step to take during pregnancy no matter what).  A qualified medical professional can evaluate your health and the health of your pregnancy, although fetal alcohol syndrome cannot be officially diagnosed before birth.  If you decide to parent, your doctor can also identify potential symptoms of a FASD in your child, and possibly point you toward early intervention services that could help (Mayo Clinic).  Remember, it’s never too late to stop drinking during pregnancy.  There are loads of resources available to support individuals who struggle with alcohol misuse, regardless of pregnancy status (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations [SAMHSA], Alcoholics Anonymous [A.A.], etc.).

How Can an Early Pregnancy Center Like Avenue Help?

Avenue Women’s Center is a limited medical clinic that provides free first-step pregnancy support.  Because our scope of services is limited, we do not offer ongoing prenatal care, treatment for substance abuse, or services for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.  However, we do offer medical-grade pregnancy tests, limited medical ultrasounds, and pregnancy consultations, to help women gather critical information and support in the early days of an unexpected pregnancy.  We’re also available to present information on valuable resources, including medical resources in the Chicagoland area.  We strongly believe in equipping individuals in our community and beyond with the reliable facts and caring support they need to thrive in the middle of an unexpected pregnancy.

Are you feeling confused and overwhelmed by your circumstances today?  Does it seem like you have no good options to cope with this pregnancy?  You don’t have to navigate this difficult road on your own.  Our expert staff at Avenue can meet you in this challenging space with warmth, empathy, and professionalism.  We’ve been partnering with persons facing circumstances like yours for over forty years.  We’re in your corner too!

Reach out to speak with a team member and schedule a visit!



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  (2022, November).  Alcohol Use During Pregnancy.  Retrieved from:

Mayo Clinic.  (2018, January).  Fetal alcohol syndrome.  Retrieved from:’t%20diagnose,months%20and%20years%20of%20life.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH).  (2021, June).  Fetal Alcohol Exposure.  Retrieved from:,%2C%20structures%2C%20and%20physiological%20systems.

Reviewed by Patricia Kuenzi, APN-CNP, MSN, ANP, PNP.

The information provided here is general in nature.  It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Avenue Women’s Center is not an emergency center.  If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention.  Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.