Is Drinking Alcohol Ok when Trying to Conceive?

‘Tis the season to be jolly, which for many of us means indulging in eating and drinking. With holiday parties and family get-togethers in full swing, if you are trying to get pregnant, you may be wondering how much, if any at all, you can drink.

Jumping online to try and figure out whether or not you can drink while trying to conceive is utterly confusing. Some health agencies say no way and other respected health agencies indicate that having one alcoholic beverage a couple times per week during pregnancy is okay (source).

Clearly, binge drinking is out, but the advice on whether you can have 1 or 2 glasses of wine a week is up in there air. Can you drink wine a couple times a week? Can you have a sip of champagne New Years Eve? That question is not easy to answer and the truth is, no one really knows.

A study in Denmark in 2012 challenged the world of fertility regarding the amount of alcohol that is safe for pregnant women. The study found that light to moderate drinking, and even an accidental binge drinking session early in pregnancy, had no negative effects on the child. The study participants that drank 8 or less drinks a week had children with out any damage to their intelligence, attention or self-control. Drinking more heavily, however, starting at 9 glasses of alcohol per week, was associated with measurable negative effects.

Does this mean that you can forget about not drinking at your holiday work party and throw back a glass of wine? Not necessarily.  There are many factors to consider, including genetics, that the studies do not have answers for yet. Genetics, for examples, play a large role in you ability to metabolize alcohol, which may make some women more susceptible to the negative effects of prenatal drinking compared to others.

Another potentially negative effect is that even if you are not yet pregnant, and are outside of your fertile window (so no possible way to be pregnant), some studies show that that having two or more glasses a day can significantly reduce your fertility. 

The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome has a firm stance on their view of drinking alcohol during pregnancy. According to NAFA, if you are trying to conceive you should have a total of zero sips of alcohol. According to the CDC and the U.S. Surgeon General, “There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant. There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink and no safe kind of alcohol.”  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics: “Evidence based research states that even drinking small amounts of alcohol while pregnant can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, or sudden infant death syndrome.” (source

That’s a lot of scary negative effects! Dr. Howard LeWine M.D., Chief Medical Editor for Harvard Health says that this may be way too extreme (haha- Dr. LeWine!). He points out that the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports having minimal alcohol use during the first trimester doesn’t appear to increase the risk for high blood pressure complications, or premature birth or low birth weights (source). 

Since we don’t actually know the safe level, many doctors simply tell patients actively trying to conceive to not drink at all. For those of you who got a little carried away during the holidays and found out you were pregnant after the fact, however, we will leave you with the quote from Dr. LeWine:

“Many women are pregnant for a while before they know it. Does their alcohol consumption during the time they were pregnant but didn’t realize it doom their child? No. They almost surely did no harm to their unborn children.”