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Pregnancy and alcohol

If you could be pregnant, are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant stop drinking alcohol. There is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Drinking alcohol could affect your unborn baby.

Women who drink alcohol while pregnant are more likely to give birth to babies who:

  • are smaller
  • are premature
  • have developmental, behavioural or physical problems – known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

Even a low intake of alcohol could be harmful to your unborn baby. For this reason, pregnant women are advised to drink no alcohol.

What is FASD?

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term used to describe a range of adverse effects on development when alcohol is consumed during pregnancy. This includes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorders (ARND).

FASD is estimated to occur in at least one out of every 100 live births, though no research has confirmed the prevalence in New Zealand.

FASD is linked to primary disabilities, those that are the direct toxic effect on the developing brain and other organs, such as birth defects, cognitive impairment and memory problems as well as secondary disabilities such as mental health disorders, educational and social failure that occur when learning and functional needs are not adequately addressed.

Alcohol and breastfeeding

Alcohol can reduce a woman’s supply of breast milk. Alcohol is also excreted in breast milk, can be passed on to the baby and may cause damage to the infant’s developing brain. Women who are breastfeeding are advised to avoid consumption of alcohol.

If you choose to drink alcohol while breastfeeding, it is suggested that you wait at least 2 hours before breastfeeding your baby for each standard drink. For example, if you have 2 standard drinks you should wait 4 hours before you breastfeed.

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