Is Drinking Alcohol Before Getting Pregnant Harmful?
byJulie VickersJun 05, 2014
Plans to start or expand a family might prompt you to reconsider your diet and change your lifestyle before becoming pregnant. The American Pregnancy Association advises women to think of pregnancy as a "year-long journey" and recommends that they avoid potentially harmful substances—including alcohol—during pregnancy and for at least three months prior to conception.
A sufficient intake of folate—or folic acid—prior to
conception and during pregnancy can help reduce the risk of fetal birth
defects, such as spina bifida. Folate is a B vitamin that is essential for
healthy cell division and is found in foods such as green leafy vegetables. The
U.S. Public Health Service advises women of childbearing age to ensure a daily
intake of 0.4 milligrams of folate. Alcohol hinders the body's ability to
absorb and utilize folate in cells and tissues, and drinking alcohol prior to
conception could increase the risk of folate deficiency. Folate deficiency
immediately prior to conception might restrict the nutritional benefits offered
by folate toward healthy early development of the embryo.
Alcohol is calorie-dense: One ounce of alcohol contains approximately
168 calories. Alcoholic drinks provide "empty calories," as they
contain little or no nutritional benefit. Alcohol is also an appetite
stimulate. Therefore, drinking alcohol during the preconception period might
cause you to gain excess weight. Women of childbearing age who are overweight
or obese place themselves at greater risk of ovulation problems and prolonged
infertility. In addition, if you are overweight during the preconception
period, your subsequent weight gain during pregnancy could exceed recommended
levels. Excess weight gain during pregnancy places you at greater risk of
developing problems such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.
Drinking alcohol can disrupt your menstrual cycle, which makes
ovulation more unpredictable and lessens your chances of becoming pregnant.
"In fact," says nutritionist Marilyn Glenville, "alcohol can
reduce your fertility by half—and the more you drink, the less likely you
are to conceive." The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
or NIAAA warns that binge drinking and alcoholism can cause ovulation to cease
and might even induce early menopause. The institute explains that moderate or
even small amounts of alcohol such as those enjoyed by social drinkers can also
cause women to become temporarily infertile.
Accidental Prenatal Alcohol
"There is no known safe amount of alcohol that you can
consume if you are pregnant," the According to the American Pregnancy
Association asserts. Predicting or diagnosing an exact date or time of
conception can prove challenging, and you could experience a time gap between
conception and finding out that you are pregnant. Therefore removing alcoholic
drinks from your diet during the preconception period gives you the best
possible chance of avoiding accidental fetal exposure to alcohol.