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Excessive Alcohol Use | Drinking While Pregnant

Why It Matters

In the United States, exposure of the fetus to alcohol is the most common cause of babies born with birth defects and intellectual disability, effects that could be prevented by not drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Exposure to alcohol during pregnancy causes damage to the fetus’s brain and other vital organs. The range of health effects are grouped together as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, pregnant women should not drink any form of alcohol as it has been shown to cause serious and negative effects on the development of the baby (fetus).

While binge drinking and heavy drinking place the fetus at highest risk, even lesser amounts of alcohol can cause damage to the developing brain. During pregnancy, approximately 14.2 % women use alcohol in Wisconsin. This high rate of alcohol use during pregnancy is not healthy since there is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or when someone is trying to get pregnant.

In Wisconsin, giving birth to a child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) also has serious legal consequences. In Wisconsin, if a hospital employee, social worker, or intake worker suspect that an infant has FASD, they must refer the infant to a doctor for an evaluation. If the doctor diagnoses the infant with FASD, the doctor is required to report that diagnosis to the appropriate county department or child welfare agency for a child abuse and neglect investigation, and the mother and infant are referred for services and treatment. Wis. Stat. sec. 146.0257.

Reducing Drinking While Pregnant in Wisconsin

According to the CDC, state and local governments can:

  • Work with their Medicaid programs to make sure alcohol screening and counseling services are reimbursable
  • Encourage health insurance plans and provider organizations to support alcohol screening and counseling
  • Monitor how many adults are receiving these services in communities
  • Support proven policies and programs that work to prevent drinking too much

Due to the concerns with alcohol and pregnancy, it is important that communities have alcohol-free spaces and that all gatherings and businesses have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages available to those who may be trying to become pregnant or are pregnant.

Resources to Prevent Drinking While Pregnant

Alcohol: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
Alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix.

Drinking Alcohol in Pregnancy (Fetal Alcohol Effects)
In the United States, exposure of alcohol to the fetus is the most common cause of babies born with birth defects.

Fetal Alcohol Exposure Fact Sheet (NIH)
Alcohol can impact the development of the fetus at the greatest risk for problems.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) (CDC)
Learn more about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs).