Every person should be thinking about their health whether or not they are planning pregnancy. One reason is that about half of all pregnancies are not planned. Unplanned pregnancies are at greater risk of preterm birth, low birth weight babies and prenatal alcohol exposure. Another reason is that, despite important advances in medicine and prenatal care, about 1 in 8 babies are born too early.
Researchers are trying to find out why and how to prevent preterm birth. But experts agree that we need to be healthier before becoming pregnant. By taking action on health issues and risks before pregnancy, you can prevent problems that might affect you or your baby later.
The project web site, ncpoep.org, is hosted by UNC School of Social Work and is funded by the federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant Fund (CFDA #93.959) as a project of the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities & Substance Abuse Services.
For more information contact Melissa Godwin at mgodwin [AT] email [DOT] unc [DOT] edu
Women of Childbearing Age and Pregnant Women Who are Taking Opioids
Click here for more information from the March of Dimes.
Click here for more information from Mother to Baby.
Congratulations on your pregnancy! This is such an exciting time, but you may be feeling overwhelmed with information. We aren't here to tell you what to do, but we do want to share accurate and up-to-date public health research so you have the information necessary to make empowered and informed decisions.
Here’s what the research says: there is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy.,, Alcohol crosses through the placenta and affects how your baby is developing. It can be especially harmful to the baby's brain, which is developing throughout the entire pregnancy.
Proof Alliance joins the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and all other major medical associations in supporting alcohol-free pregnancies, from conception through birth.
However, we know this isn't always an easy choice. If you want extra support or information on how to have an alcohol-free pregnancy, we are here for you. Give us a call at (651) 917-2370 or e-mail us at info [AT] proofalliance [DOT] org. You can also follow us on social media to see the latest research, find yummy alcohol-free recipes, and connect with other people who are passionate about alcohol-free pregnancies.
- Flak AL, Su, Bertrand J, Denny CH, Kesmodel US, Cogswell ME. The association of mild, moderate, and binge prenatal alcohol exposure and child neuropsychological outcomes: A meta-analysis. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2014;38(1):214-226.
- Hemingway SJA, Bledsoe JM, Davies JK, Brooks A, Jirikowic T, Olson EM, Thorne JC. Twin study confirms virtually identical prenatal alcohol exposures can lead to markedly different fetal alcohol spectrum disorder outcomes – fetal genetics influences fetal vulnerability. Adv Pediatr Res. 2019;5:23.
- Irner TB. Substance exposure in utero and developmental consequences in adolescence: A systematic review. Child Neuropsychology. 2012;18(6):521-549.
- Burd L, Blair J, Dropps K. Prenatal alcohol exposure, blood alcohol concentrations and alcohol elimination rates for the mother, fetus and newborn. Journal of Perinatology. 2012;32:652-659.
- Hendrickson et al. Cortical gyrification is abnormal in children with prenatal alcohol exposure. NeuroImage: Clinical. 2017;15 391-400.
- World Health Organization. Counting the Costs of Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy. https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/95/5/17-030517/en/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/alcoholuse.html
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Alcohol and women. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Alcohol-and-Women
Trying to become pregnant can be an exciting and stressful time. There’s so much information out there about what you should be doing that it can get confusing. We’ll leave most of the recommendations to your health care provider – they can talk with you about things like prenatal vitamins, exercise, and what vaccines you might need. But there is one major public health recommendation we need to share with you: avoid alcohol while trying to conceive to protect your baby’s brain.
While most people quit drinking once they find out they’re pregnant, this typically doesn’t happen until 4 or more weeks after conception. The baby’s brain is already starting to develop by that time, so prenatal alcohol exposure can impact the brain development before someone even knows they’re pregnant. By cutting out alcohol as soon as you start trying to conceive, you can protect your baby’s brain from the very beginning.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The impact of alcohol on women’s health. 2018.
- Popova S, Dozet D, Burd L. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: Can we change the future?. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2020;44(4):815‐819.
- Legault LM, Bertrand-Lehouillier V, McGraw S. Pre-implantation alcohol exposure and developmental programming of FASD: An epigenetic perspective. Biochem Cell Biol. 2018;96:117-130.
It might seem like FASD prevention is irrelevant if you’re not pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant any time soon. Even if you never plan on becoming pregnant, everyone benefits from healthier lifestyle choices. Making safer choices when it comes to your sexual health & alcohol use is win-win.
Let’s start with sexual health. Did you know that almost half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned? If you’re having sex and don’t want to become pregnant, you should talk with your health care provider about different birth control options. Your doctor can help you figure out which one is right for . Some birth control options – like the IUD and the implant – are more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy!
Another major way to look out for your health is by making safer alcohol choices. Though they might not realize it, many people’s drinking is considered high-risk. For example, 17% of adults in the US binge drank in the past month, and 1 in 4 adults have had at least one heavy drinking episode in the past year. Despite its widespread use, there are many risks associated with alcohol, including injuries, alcohol poisoning, and diseases such as cancer.
For those who choose to drink, there are ways to do it more safely:
- Drink in moderation. This means up to 1 standard serving of alcohol per day for women and up to 2 standard servings of alcohol per day for men.
- Avoid binge drinking (4 or more drinks for women/5 or more drinks for men in about 2 hours).
- Know what is considered one standard serving of alcohol (12 ounces of regular beer, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits like vodka and tequila).
- Talk to your health care provider if you’re worried about your drinking.
- Finer LB, Zolna MR. Declines in Unintended Pregnancy in the United States, 2008-2011. New England Journal of Medicine. 2016;374: 843-852.
- Turok DK, Gawron LM, Lawson S. New developments in long-acting reversible contraception: the promise of intrauterine devices and implants to improve family planning services. Fertil Steril. 2016;106(6):1273–1281.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Data and maps: Excessive drinking. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/alcohol.htm
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alcohol use. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/alcohol.htm
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol's effects on the body. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fact sheets: Moderate drinking. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fact sheets: Binge drinking. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm
When pregnant people have support from loved ones (especially from their partners), they are less likely to drink alcohol throughout their pregnancy. Here are some ways you can offer support:
- Choose to quit or cut down your own drinking, especially when you’re with them.
- Make zero-proof drinks without alcohol to enjoy together. Going to a social event? Bring some alcohol-free options with you.
- Talk with family and friends about the benefits of alcohol-free pregnancies and why it’s important to be supportive of the person’s choice not to drink.
Always respect a person’s choice not to drink alcohol, whether they’re pregnant or not. Don’t pressure someone to drink or make them explain why they’re not drinking.
- van der Wulp NY, Hoving C, de Vries H. Partner's influences and other correlates of prenatal alcohol use. Matern Child Health J. 2015;19(4):908-916.
- Centre of Excellence for Women's Health. Alcohol, pregnancy and partner support. https://bccewh.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/FASD-Sheet-6_Alcohol-Pregnancy-Partner-Support-Dec-6.pdf