Frequently Asked Questions

When should I avoid alcohol during pregnancy?

The time to stop drinking is when you are planning a pregnancy. Because you don’t know precisely when you might conceive, It’s best to avoid alcohol when you are sexually active and not using contraception. If you wait until you know you are pregnant, you may be risking damage to the embryo during the first trimester. That is when the cellular structure of the limbs and organs are being formed. As well, the neuropathways of the brain and the central nervous system (CNS) continue to develop throughout the nine months of pregnancy. This process does not stop after birth so it is wise to continue to avoid alcohol if you are breastfeeding.

I was drinking when my baby was conceived – will my baby be OK?

The likelihood of prenatal alcohol exposure damage is slight on the occasion of alcohol use at the time of conception. The problem arises if there is alcohol present following conception. The safest way is avoiding alcohol as long as you are sexually active and not using contraception.


How many drinks are dangerous for the fetus?

There is no lower threshold for alcoholic beverages during pregnancy. The only safe and sure practice is avoidance of alcohol throughout pregnancy. There is no safe kind, no safe amount and no safe time to use alcohol during pregnancy.

What kinds of drinks are dangerous for the fetus?

All alcoholic drinks can do the same harm to the brain developing in the embryo and the fetus.

What does FASD look like?

FASD or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders is an umbrella term that includes such diagnoses as FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) which is indicated by facial dysmorphology and other physical anomalies; pFAS (Partial FAS) with less pronounced physical features; ARND (Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder) where the brain damage can be as debilitating but physical anomalies are not observable. These disorders can vary from one extreme to another depending on the timing and amount of alcohol use by the birth mother. FASD is usually identified by impulsive behaviours, inability to predict consequences, inability to learn from experience and other cognitive reasoning incapacities.


Aren’t prescription or street drugs the worst thing you can take during pregnancy?

Alcohol is a teratogen, which has a permanent impact on brain development. Most street drugs are not teratogens* and, while harmful to the user, do not have an impact on the brain development of the baby in utero.

*Other teratogens include Dilantin; Codeine; Toluene; Lithium; Crystal Meth; & Thalidomide

What should I do if I discover that I’m pregnant after I’ve had a few social drinking occasions?

Stop drinking as soon as you know you are pregnant in order to mitigate any damage to the baby’s developing brain.

The occasional drink is good for relaxation during pregnancy, isn’t it?

When you drink in pregnancy, the baby drinks. This does not relax the baby but disrupts the development of the neuropathways of the brain. Always avoid alcohol throughout your pregnancy.

How big is FASD in our country?

FASD is the most common, most expensive, yet most preventable mental disorder around the globe. In North America, the acknowledged prevalence is one in a hundred live births. But recent studies indicate that the rate could be as high as 2-5% which makes FASD bigger than all the well-known mental health disorders put together. Even at 1%, FASD must be considered to be at epidemic proportions.

How much does FASD cost our society?

Each individual who struggles with FASD will, on average, cost our society approximately $2 Million during his or her lifetime. This cost includes welfare, special education, social and health services and the justice system. This does not include the grief, anguish and secondary costs borne by the individuals’ families.

Why should I quit drinking even before I’m pregnant?

In order to avoid any brain damage to the embryo during the first trimester, it is important to stop drinking before the baby is conceived. Because medical authorities tell us that at least 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, it is often towards the end of the first trimester before a woman realizes that she is pregnant. (See ‘When should I avoid alcohol during pregnancy?’)

I drank a little during my first pregnancy and my baby turned out fine, so why should I have to change my ways now?

Experience has shown us that the impact of alcohol on the fetus is greater with each subsequent pregnancy. Circumstances around each individual pregnancy vary so it is always most prudent to avoid alcohol when planning and during pregnancy.