Heavy Drinking by Pregnant Women Rare

Among pregnant women aged 15 to 44, an estimated eight-tenths of one percent (0.8) reported heavy drinking according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 1 Heavy drinking during pregnancy endangers the fetus and it might develop Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a serious health problem that tragically affects its victims and their families, but that is completely preventable. Causing a child to suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is really nothing short of child abuse and it lasts for life.

Should Pregnant Women Drink Any Alcohol?

It's easy to understand why expectant women can be confused about the question. For example, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which issues health guidelines in the UK, concluded that it is safe for expectant mothers to consume a small drink of alcohol each day. 2

Two weeks later, Britain's Department of Health changed its advice from recommending no more than two small drinks per day to recommending that pregnant women not drink any alcoholic beverage. 3

Then the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists reported that light alcohol consumption during pregnancy might affect the long-term health of child4 but restated its recommendation that two drinks twice a week is an acceptable level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.5 This was followed by a new British Medical Association Report that pregnant women should abstain from drinking alcohol. 6

"possible risks" to the foetus (or fetus). She concluded that because of the uncertainty and confusion surrounding the question, women should simply be told to avoid alcohol entirely. 7

In the same issue of the journal, a leading medical authority insisted that "there is no evidence that alcohol in moderation causes harm to unborn babies." 8

So, Is It Safe To Drink During Pregnancy?

There are several important points to consider:

  • There appears to be no evidence that drinking in moderation (no more than one drink of beer, wine or distilled spirits) by pregnant women has ever caused fetal alcohol syndrome or otherwise harmed a single baby. The scientific burden of proof lies on those who contend that such drinking is harmful and they have not been able to do so.
  • Women who choose to drink in moderation while pregnant can do so with knowledge that their decision is consistent with scientific evidence.
  • There is always the possibility that some as yet unidentified harm to a baby might result from light or moderate drinking during pregnancy.
  • Given the above possibility, even if remote, the very safest choice for an expectant mother's fetus would be to abstain.

    Standard Drinks

    Standard Drinks graphically illustrates information on the equivalence of standard drinks of beer, wine and distilled spirits or liquor. Its accuracy has been established by medical and other health professionals.

What's a Drink?

A standard glass of white or red wine, a bottle of beer, and a shot of whiskey or other distilled spirits all contain equivalent amounts of alcohol and are the same to a Breathalyzer. A standard drink is:

  • A 12-ounce bottle or can of regular beer
  • A 5-ounce glass of wine
  • A one and 1/2 ounce of 80 proof distilled spirits (either straight or in a mixed drink)

Note: This website does not make health/medical opinions or recommendations of any kind and none should be inferred.


  • 1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Results from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings. Rockville, MD: Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-36, HHS Publication No. SMA 09-4434, 2009.
  • 2. Yee, Linda. New Study Says Some Alcohol OK for Pregnant Women. HealthWatch website, November 15, 2007.
  • 3. Cockcroft, Linda. Pregnant women told to keep off alcohol. Telegraph Media, October 26, 2007.
  • 4. Rose, David. Pregnant women told glass of wine a day is fine -- and too dangerous. The Times (UK), October 11, 2007.
  • 5. Rose, David. Pregnant women told glass of wine a day is fine -- and too dangerous. The Times (UK), October 11, 2007.
  • 6. Pregnancy and Alcohol - How Much is Safe? Medical News Today website, October 27, 2007.
  • 7. Nathanson, Vivienne. Is it all right for women to drink small amounts of alcohol in pregnancy? No. British Medical Journal, 2007, 335, 857.
  • 8. O'Brien, Pat. Is it all right for women to drink small amounts of alcohol in pregnancy? Yes. British Medical Journal, 2007, 335, 856.

Filed Under: Women's Health