When you shop through links on our site, we may receive compensation. This educational content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

Drinking While Pregnant Statistics and Facts: 35 Insights

Uncover 35 vital effects of drinking while pregnant.

It is crucial that pregnant mothers know what’s safe during pregnancy and what’s not in order to protect their unborn child. There are many things a pregnant woman should avoid, including drinking.

In the United States, about 11% of pregnant women drink alcohol (source). To give you more insight through this exploration of drinking while pregnant, uncover 35 statistics and facts that explore the effects of drinking while pregnant. This includes the prevalence of alcohol use in pregnancy, the long-term effects of drinking while pregnant, and information about fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

We’ll also share important information for women who drank during pregnancy before knowing they were expecting and tips for how to stop drinking alcohol.

5 Key Facts About Consuming Alcohol During Pregnancy

Below are five essential drinking alcohol while pregnant statistics and facts. For more in-depth information, we have 35 more facts throughout the article.

  1. About 9.8% of pregnant women drink alcohol worldwide.
  2. About 11% of pregnant women drink alcohol in the U.S.A.
  3. Women who have drunk alcohol in the first 29 days of pregnancy have a 37% higher chance of a miscarriage.
  4. Drinking during pregnancy can increase the risk of birth defects, including hearing loss, cleft lip, and heart problems in children.
  5. There are about 7.7 cases of fetal alcohol syndrome per 1,000 people worldwide.

Can You Have a Glass of Wine While Pregnant?

You should not drink a glass of wine while pregnant. No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy (1). The American Pregnancy Association (APA) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both advise no alcohol during pregnancy, including wine, beer, and spirits.

Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause a miscarriage, stillbirth, and fetal alcohol disorders (2). Children with fetal alcohol disorders can have a range of symptoms and challenges, including low body weight, attention disorders, learning disabilities, and low IQ.

35 Drinking While Pregnant Statistics and Facts

Investigate 35 important facts about drinking while pregnant across four topics. We’ll discuss the worldwide prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy, alcohol use in early pregnancy, long-term effects of drinking while pregnant, and fetal alcohol syndrome statistics.

Prevalence of Alcohol Use In Pregnancy

Prioritizing your fetus’ safety can be a challenge, but it is crucial that women avoid alcohol during pregnancy. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Let’s break down the prevalence of alcohol use in pregnancy by country.

  1. Global prevalence: The average global prevalence of alcohol consumption during pregnancy is estimated at 9.8% (3).
  2. U.S.A. prevalence: 11% of pregnant women between ages 15 and 44 reported having alcohol in the previous month from when they were surveyed. Between 2018 and 2022, around 5% of pregnant women aged 18 to 49 had been binge drinking in the previous 30 days.
  3. Prevalence in Ireland: Ireland has the highest rate of drinking during pregnancy, with 60% of pregnant women having had alcohol.
  4. Prevalence in Belarus: Belarus has the second highest rate of alcohol use during pregnancy, at an estimated 46.6%.
  5. Denmark prevalence: Denmark has a high rate of alcohol use during pregnancy, at an estimated 45.8%.
  6. Prevalence in Sub-Saharan Africa: The prevalence in Sub-Saharan Africa of pregnant women who consume alcohol is 22.8%.
  7. Prevalence in the United Kingdom: Around 28% of pregnant women in the U.K. consume alcohol during pregnancy (4).
  8. Lowest alcohol prevalence: The countries with the lowest alcohol prevalence during pregnancy at zero percent include Oman, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait.
  9. Prevalence in Mexico: The estimated prevalence of women who consume alcohol during pregnancy in Mexico is 1.2%.

Alcohol Use In Early Pregnancy

Alcohol use is unsafe during pregnancy, but does it make a difference if you have alcohol in the early stages? Let’s learn more about the effects of drinking in the first few weeks of pregnancy.

  1. Exposure to alcohol at conception: Although globally, around 10% of pregnant women drink during pregnancy, about 50% of pregnant women drink during the conception period (5).
  2. Alcohol use and miscarriages: Early alcohol use in pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriages. Alcohol can cause oxidative stress, which can interfere with biochemical pathways important to the development of an embryo. Alcohol can also interfere with a pregnant woman’s hormone levels, which can impact how her uterus prepares for the baby.
  3. Risk during weeks five through ten: From weeks five to ten of pregnancy, alcohol use is associated with miscarriages. The risk peaks at week nine of pregnancy.
  4. Women exposed up to 29 days pregnant: Women who consume alcohol up to 29 days of pregnancy have a 37% higher chance of having a miscarriage compared to those who have not consumed alcohol. This risk was the same if the woman had less than one drink per week or higher levels of alcohol.
  5. Drinking alcohol before finding out you are pregnant: Some organizations state that alcohol is not safe at any time of pregnancy, including before you find out if you are pregnant (6). Other organizations, such as Tommy’s, encourage women not to worry if they drank alcohol before finding out they were pregnant, especially if it was just low amounts (7). If you’re worried, let your healthcare team know.
  6. Alcohol in the first trimester: Drinking alcohol during the first 12 weeks causes the baby to have abnormal facial features, growth problems, and central nervous system issues (8).
  7. The risks of early exposure: A study found that babies exposed to alcohol earlier in pregnancy had more severe and debilitating cognitive disorders than those who were exposed to alcohol later in pregnancy (9).
  8. A contradicting study: In 2020, Harvard released a study that contradicted other information. They said that consuming a little alcohol during the first trimester didn’t increase blood pressure complications, premature birth, or low birth weights (10). They also revealed that the risk of common complications of drinking alcohol while pregnant, such as low birth weight or pre-eclampsia, wasn’t affected by the amount of alcohol consumed.

Long-Term Effects of Drinking While Pregnant

We’ve discussed how alcohol can affect a fetus, causing miscarriage, low birth weight, and facial abnormalities. But alcohol can also have long-term effects on a child exposed in utero. Below are nine crucial reasons to avoid alcohol during gestation.

  1. Learning and behavior challenges: Fetal alcohol syndrome can cause learning and behavior challenges (11). Children exposed to alcohol in utero may need extra learning support, especially in reading and math.
  2. Problems with joints, muscles, bones, and organs: Children exposed to alcohol during gestation may have problems with important joints, muscles, bones, and organs, including the kidney and heart.
  3. Memory and attention span: Alcohol in utero can affect a child’s memory and attention span, which can then affect their ability to learn and tolerate educational settings. They may also need extra time to complete homework and exams.
  4. Controlling emotions: Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) can have challenges with controlling their emotions and being impulsive (12). This can affect how they develop social characteristics and manage relationships.
  5. Abnormal facial features: Children exposed to alcohol in utero may have abnormal facial features, including a smooth ridge between their nose and upper lip.
  6. Smaller features: They may also have smaller features, such as a smaller head, being short in height, and having lower body weight.
  7. Birth defects: Common birth defects caused by FAS include hearing loss, a cleft lip, and heart problems (13).
  8. Self-care: Children exposed to alcohol during gestation can have problems with daily self-care. Getting dressed, brushing their hair, and preparing meals can be huge challenges for them.
  9. Longer-term problems: Children with FAS may have issues as an adult that include psychiatric problems, criminal behavior, an incomplete education, and unemployment (14).

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Statistics Worldwide

FAS is difficult for families, children, and teachers to manage. It encompasses a range of symptoms, including low birth weight and patterns of unemployment. We’re going to look at the prevalence of FAS worldwide — one of the most severe among Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders (FASD) — and its impact on different demographics.

  1. Global prevalence: The estimated global prevalence of FASD is 7.7 cases per 1,000 people (15).
  2. Correlations with alcohol consumption: The rates of FASD correlate with the rates of alcohol use during pregnancy. For instance, Ireland has 47.5 cases per 1,000, Belarus has 36.6 cases per 1,000, and Oman has no recorded cases of FASD.
  3. Over one percent prevalence: There are 76 countries that have a prevalence of FASD over one percent, which is more than other neurodevelopmental conditions such as Down syndrome or spina bifida.
  4. Number of children born globally with FASD: There are approximately 630,000 children born with FASD each year across the world. There are over 11 million people aged zero to 18 with FASD and 25 million aged 0 to 40.
  5. First-grade children: About one to five percent of first-graders in the U.S.A. have FASD (16).
  6. Prevalence in the U.S.A.: The CDC has reported that one baby is born with FASD per 1,000 live births (17). The most recent CDC study found that 0.3 of 1,000 children aged seven to nine have FASD.
  7. Lifetime cost of a child with FASD: In 2002, the estimated cost of care for one person with FASD was $2 million.
  8. FASD by region: The World Health Organization European region has the highest prevalence of FASD, with 19.8 cases per 1,000 people (18). The WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region has the lowest prevalence, with 0.1 cases per 1,000 people.
  9. Highest case number: South Africa has the highest number of FASD cases, with 111.1 per 1,000. Ireland also has one of the highest rates at 47.5 per 1,000.

Drinking In Early Pregnancy Without Knowing

If you drank during early pregnancy before finding out you were pregnant, try not to panic. This is pretty common, especially if the pregnancy was accidental. If the drinking occurred within the first four weeks before your period was due, there is unlikely to be developmental harm after birth, but you might be at increased risk of a miscarriage. Let your healthcare team know about the drinking right away.

Inform them if you were drinking heavily or if it was just light drinking, as this can affect the associated risks. They will run a series of tests or extra monitoring to track the baby’s health.

How to Stop Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy

If you’re looking to stop drinking now that you’ve found out you are pregnant, that’s great. These critical insights into drinking while pregnant (statistics and facts) prove how harmful it can be and that it’s never too late to stop. Below are nine tips for stopping alcohol use.

  • Call a national helpline: Contact a helpline, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The number for SAMHSA is 1-800-662-4357.
  • Contact a treatment center: If you believe you need round-the-clock support to cease alcohol use, consider contacting a treatment center. There are many that allow you to bring children with you while you attend. Places like Wayside House or ShareHouse Inc. are great options.
  • Let your healthcare team know: If you’re struggling with alcohol consumption, let your healthcare provider know. They can put measures in place to help you stop.
  • Find support: Seek support from friends or family. Consider attending a program like Alcoholics Anonymous to find others who are going through the same thing as you. It can also help to find people who have recovered from alcoholism and are open to supporting you on your journey.
  • Seek counseling: Seeking counseling, such as cognitive behavior therapy, can help you organize your thoughts and behavior. It will help you identify the root issues so you can tackle them and, ultimately, tackle your behaviors, such as drinking.
  • Swap to alcohol-free drinks: One of the easiest changes to make is swapping to an alcohol-free drink when you are craving alcohol. Alcohol-free beers, wines, and spirits are better alternatives (but keep in mind they sometimes still contain trace amounts of alcohol, so always double-check).
  • Try new soft drinks: Pregnancy is a great time to try new foods and drinks. Try new soft drinks such as mocktails, iced fruit teas, homemade smoothies, and milkshakes.
  • Avoid scenes where others are drinking: Try and avoid places that trigger you to drink, such as clubs and parties. Instead, have friends round to the house for movies and pizza.
  • Think of the bigger picture: Remind yourself why you are stopping alcohol. Not only will it protect the fetus, but getting out of the habit of drinking is necessary for motherhood. When your baby arrives, it’s not safe to drink or use drugs while they are in your care.


Is It Illegal to Drink Alcohol While Pregnant?

It isn’t currently illegal to consume alcohol while pregnant, as there are no restrictive federal laws. But, most representatives advise avoiding alcohol consumption while pregnant. Keep in mind that some states have laws and regulations that restrict or penalize pregnant women for drinking.

What Is the Worst Time to Drink During Pregnancy?

Drinking is unsafe at any point during pregnancy, including in the second and third trimesters. However, there is some research to determine that drinking from week six to 13 is the most dangerous time for drinking, as this is when crucial prenatal development is happening (19).

Can One Drink Cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

The research is conflicting. The Cleveland Clinic reports that any amount of alcohol can cause fetal alcohol syndrome (20). However, the National Library of Medicine has found no evidence between FASD and women who only drank occasionally or moderately (21).

But the bottom line is that the advice remains the same: pregnant women should avoid alcohol throughout their entire pregnancy. If women are trying to conceive, they should also avoid alcohol, even before they get their test results.

How Does Drinking While Pregnant Affect the Mother?

It’s clear that drinking during pregnancy affects the baby, but how does it affect the mother? What are some signs of drinking during pregnancy?

First, alcohol use can affect the body’s response to stress, reproductive functions, and the metabolism of body tissue (22). Alcohol can also disrupt growth hormones and insulin-like growth factors. Most of all, alcohol can cause the mother to get drunk, debilitating her inhibitions and potentially causing her to be more at risk for other behaviors such as drug use or drinking while driving.

Can Alcohol Cause a Miscarriage?

One of the main risks of alcohol use is that it can cause a miscarriage. Even moderate amounts can cause a miscarriage. Women who drink four or more alcoholic drinks per week are twice as likely to have a miscarriage compared to women who don’t drink (23). If 20% of pregnancies already end in miscarriage, a pregnant woman who drinks could have a 40% chance of a miscarriage.

Can Alcohol Affect a Pregnancy Test?

No. Drinking alcohol doesn’t affect a pregnancy test. However, sometimes, when you drink too much (alcohol or water), it can dilute your urine, which can make it harder for a pregnancy test to detect hCG (24). This can possibly give you a false negative. If you are trying to conceive, avoid alcohol.

Feedback: Was This Article Helpful?
Thank You For Your Feedback!
Thank You For Your Feedback!
What Did You Like?
What Went Wrong?
Headshot of Beth McCallum

About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a Scottish freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism and English literature. She is a mum to a young boy, and believes that it truly takes a village. When she’s not parenting, writing about parenting, or working, she can be found reading, working on her novel, taking photos, playing board games or wandering through the countryside with her family.