Is it OK that I drank alcohol before I knew I was pregnant?

Unaware that they are pregnant, many mums drink alcohol in the first few weeks – and then worry

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Even if you have your suspicions that you might be pregnant, it’s almost always a few weeks’ wait before a pregnancy test can confirm it.

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So, usually we potter through the first 2-3 weeks of pregnancy as normal, without realising anything’s up.

This means that you might have had a few alcoholic drinks after conceiving – or even a binge drinking session – and now, you’re worrying about it.

GP Dr Dawn Harper calms our fears when she tells us that she was one of those women who had an alcoholic drink before she realised she was expecting: “I’ll be honest: I didn’t realise when I was pregnant with my first child, and I drank at a party,” she says.

“How many women have consumed tonnes of alcohol when they don’t realise they’re pregnant?” says MFMer Poppy Porch.

Another MFMer says: “With both my first and second pregnancies I had a big night out before realising that I was pregnant.” aimz89

Try not to worry 

Dr Harper encourages you not to panic if you did drink alcohol before you were aware that you were pregnant. “Every month in my work as a GP, I see women who are very happy to discover they’re pregnant, but concerned that they had a few drinks before finding out,” she says. “Once you do know you’re pregnant, it’s a different matter.”

The impact of alcohol in early pregnancy

  • Binge drinking or sustained heavy drinking at any stage of pregnancy are known to have potentially lifelong damaging effects to an unborn baby.
  • Drinking low levels of alcohol in pregnancy (1-2 drinks, once or twice a week) has not been proven to be harmful to an unborn baby. This is why, if you had just a few drinks in the first 2-3 weeks before realising you were pregnant, your doctor will probably tell you not to worry.
  • During the first trimester, your baby is in the first stages of growth and development, and the risk of miscarriage is at its highest. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) therefore recommends that you avoid all alcohol during the first 12 weeks.

Tell me more about the latest guidelines on alcohol and pregnancy

Drinking when you’re trying to conceive

Alcohol is known to damage male fertility – its impact on female fertility is as yet unknown. The NHS advises that if you are trying to conceive (TTC) you should avoid alcohol.

Tell me more about alcohol and fertility

Mums on our sister site babyexpert.com share their experiences of drinking before they knew they were pregnant

“Because it had taken so long to conceive with number 1, I thought there was no way I could be pregnant. So, I had a few drinks. It probably amounted to a couple of gins and a couple of bottles of wine over a few nights (ooops!!). Then I found out I was about 4.5 weeks pregnant and stopped straight away.” Emmsg

“My son was conceived in September 2005 but I didn’t find out I was pregnant till February 2006! I was pregnant over Christmas and had a few drinks. I felt very guilty when I found out, but the doctor assured me he would be fine.” Dipndazzle

“My sister got terribly drunk, sunbathed and got totally burnt, had a jacuzzi and a sauna before she found out about her first!” CupcakeLadyJ

Tell me more about alcohol and conception

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Tell me about the latest research on drinking and pregnancy

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