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Drinking alcohol while pregnant can have serious consequences for baby.

These are the key messages from the current information on alcohol and pregnancy:

  • There is no known safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy.
  • Alcohol can affect the development of a baby’s brain and central nervous system throughout pregnancy, including around the time of conception.
  • There is no known safe amount of alcohol that can be drunk during pregnancy. Frequent heavy drinking is known to harm a developing baby, but we don’t know how much alcohol it takes to cause damage.
  • A baby is not protected from alcohol by the placenta. Alcohol passes freely through the placenta and reaches concentrations in the baby’s blood that can be as high as those in the mother.

Consequences

The consequences of a woman drinking alcohol while pregnant can include:

  • miscarriage
  • stillbirth
  • premature birth
  • low birth weight
  • a child with lifelong mental, physical, behavioural and learning disabilities (foetal alcohol spectrum disorder).

Other resources

Alcohol and pregnancy: A practical guide for health professionals (PDF 207KB) | Ministry of Health(external link)

Don’t know? Don’t drink | Health Promotion Agency(external link)

NZ’s neglected fetal alcohol problem | Radio New Zealand(external link)

Alcohol: Pregnancy and babies | Ministry of Health (external link)

Avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs | Ministry of Health(external link)