Alcohol during pregnancy


Many women wonder whether a glass of wine is okay during pregnancy.

Alcohol can cross the placenta ("placenta", the border between maternal and child blood circulation) unhindered. In this way, the amount of alcohol that a pregnant woman ingests reaches the embryo or fetus unfiltered via the umbilical cord. Therefore, alcohol consumption during pregnancy generally poses a risk for the growing child and is a common cause of congenital malformations and disabilities.

In Germany a total of around 10,000 children are born annually with harm from alcohol. Of these, around 2,000 to 4,000 children are diagnosed with the so-called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS for short), also known as alcohol embryopathy. Fetal alcohol syndrome is the most serious form of damage caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy. It describes the simultaneous occurrence of behavioral problems and physical and mental development disorders, which in most cases are irreparable, i.e. permanent.
The amount of alcohol that is safe for pregnancy is not known. In order not to run the risk of an alcohol-related developmental disorder in the growing child, alcohol should therefore be completely avoided during pregnancy.

Read more on the subject below Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Prohibited Foods During Pregnancy

Possible consequences

The long-term consequences and damage caused by alcohol during pregnancy are varied. The timing of alcohol consumption also plays an important role, as the embryo or fetus is in different stages of maturity and development and accordingly reacts differently to external influencing factors:

The organs are created in the first three months of pregnancy (first trimester). Their development is very sensitive to external influences and consequently the damage caused by alcohol consumption by the pregnant woman in this phase is profound.

During the fourth to sixth month of pregnancy (second trimester), there is a risk of miscarriage (abortion) with alcohol consumption, and growth may be delayed.

In the sixth to ninth month of pregnancy (third trimester) the risk of damage to the central nervous system is greatest and results in neurological, psychological and social impairments.

Read more on the topic: Placental insufficiency

An umbrella term for all disorders caused by alcohol consumption is the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder). It summarizes the various development deficits that can arise when women consume alcohol during pregnancy.

The consequences of consuming alcohol during pregnancy also depend on the timing. In the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the embryo's organ creation takes place, during which it is particularly susceptible to external influences such as alcohol.

Physical damage includes growth disorders (short stature), malformations of the skull, face and brain, malformations in the area of ​​the sexual organs and the skeleton, heart defects, hearing disorders and muscle weakness. Neurological, psychological and social consequences include intellectual disability, difficulty concentrating and learning, language disorders, aggressiveness, hyperactivity and epilepsy.
The most severe form of alcohol-related damage is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS for short), also called alcohol embryopathy. It describes the simultaneous occurrence of several of the above-mentioned behavioral disorders and physical and mental developmental disorders. Typical facial changes can also occur in the full picture of fetal alcohol syndrome. The fetal alcohol syndrome is irreversible, i.e. the damage cannot be reversed and in most cases cannot be treated. Targeted early support and intensive care for the affected children is very important for their further development.

Read more on the topic: Fetal alcohol syndrome

Alcohol in food

Basically, the expectant mother should be throughout pregnancy none Consume alcohol. This also applies to alcohol in food and mixed drinks. A single accidental consumption of a food containing alcohol is unlikely to lead directly to harm to the child. However, in order not to take any risks, the expectant mother should consequent refrain from alcohol.
When cooking a dish, some of the alcohol will boil off, but it can still do so after simmering for a long time Residual alcohol be included. Fruit juices or fermented Food (e.g. sauerkraut) can contain small amounts of alcohol. Drinks and food labeled as “non-alcoholic” can also contain alcohol residues of up to 0.5 percent alcohol by volume. Chocolate or pralines filled with liquor or schnapps should also not be eaten.

Alcohol during the 1st month

Many women get pregnant unplanned or are unaware of their pregnancy in the first few weeks and worry if they have drunk alcohol beforehand. In the first few weeks of pregnancy you go by you All-or-nothing principle out. According to this, if the embryo is seriously damaged, either a miscarriage occurs or the damaged cells can be replaced by other cells without losing their function and the embryo can then continue to develop normally.
As soon as expectant mothers find out about the pregnancy, they should stop drinking alcohol in order to enable the child to develop healthily.
Since in the first trimester (up to the 12thWeek of pregnancy) the child's organ formation takes place, alcohol consumption in the first to third month of pregnancy is particularly dangerous because the child is developing at that time particularly vulnerable for significant damage. In this phase, development disorders of the internal organs, the head, the face and the brain can occur in particular.


A dose of alcohol that is safe for pregnancy is not known. In order to safely avoid damage to the embryo or fetus through alcohol, every pregnant woman should completely avoid alcohol during pregnancy during the entire pregnancy and while breastfeeding. If a woman does not know anything about her pregnancy in the first few weeks and has drank a lot of alcohol during this time, an all-or-nothing principle is assumed.
Developmental disorders and impairments of the growing child due to alcohol consumption during pregnancy are manifold. They can be of a physical form (including growth, organ formation and development) as well as a mental, psychological and social form (including intellectual disabilities, language disorders, aggressive behavior, epilepsy).
In the case of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), the damage is permanent and usually cannot be treated.

For more information, see: Fetal alcohol syndrome

Furthermore, it should not be neglected that, in addition to alcohol, smoking during pregnancy can also cause great damage to the child and it is essential to refrain from smoking during pregnancy.

Read more on the subject below

  • How dangerous is smoking during pregnancy?
  • Sleep disorders in pregnancy