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Common myths about alcohol use and pregnancy

Common myth It's OK to drink alcohol after the first trimester

FALSE: The brain continues to develop throughout pregnancy and drinking alcohol at any time can damage different parts of the brain. There is no level of drinking alcohol that can be guaranteed to be completely ‘safe’ or ‘no risk’ or a ‘safe time’ to drink alcohol during pregnancy.

Common myth 1 or 2 drinks every week is OK

FALSE: No level of alcohol exposure has been established as ‘safe’ or 'no risk’ for the developing fetus. The more alcohol and the more frequently alcohol is consumed during pregnancy the higher the risk of FASD.

Common myth The placenta filters out harmful substances

FALSE: Alcohol crosses the placenta. The baby is exposed to the same blood level of alcohol as the mother. Because the liver is not fully formed the fetus cannot process the alcohol and may have the same blood alcohol content or higher than the mother and it remains at that level longer.

Common myth Certain types of alcohol are safe to drink during pregnancy

FALSE: It doesn’t matter whether its champagne, wine, beer or spirits. A standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol – we measure the amount of alcohol not the amount of liquid or type.

Common myth Only children of women who are alcoholics or very heavy drinkers will have children with FASD

FALSE: No level of alcohol consumption has been deemed ‘safe’ or 'no risk' for the developing fetus. Although the risk is greatest with high, frequent alcohol consumption, particularly in the first trimester, low to moderate levels of alcohol consumption can also affect the development of the brain at any time during pregnancy.

Common myth Children grow out of FASD

FALSE: Unfortunately FASD is a lifelong disability and although can be effectively managed and improved it cannot be cured.

Common myth All children with FASD look different

FALSE: Most people with FASD will not have distinctive facial features. FASD is often referred to as the ‘invisible’ disability as you can’t tell just by looking at the face. It is the damage to the brain that causes the physical, cognitive and behavioural impairments.

Common myth All children with FASD have an intellectual disability

FALSE: An intellectual disability is an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) score of less than 70. Most people with FASD have an IQ between 70 and the low 80s. Some people with FASD can have a higher IQ.

Common myth Drinking alcohol will increase milk production

FALSE: Alcohol does not increase milk production, and has been shown to inhibit let-down and decrease milk production.

Common myth Alcohol helps relax & breastfeed more easily

FALSE: Alcohol inhibits let-down and creates stress for the mother and the baby who can't get enough milk.

Page last updated 11 November 2020