Alcohol and Pregnancy



Alcohol is a teratogen


A teratogen is a drug, chemical or infection that interrupts or alters the normal development of a fetus, including development of the brain or other major organs. Other examples of teratogens include Rubella, radiation, mercury and thalidomide.


There is no safe amount or safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy which is why we recommend ...




 Australian Guidelines to reduce harm from alcohol









Alcohol can cross the placenta


The placenta links the blood supply of the fetus to the blood supply of the mother and is essential to the growth of a healthy fetus. The placenta cannot keep harmful substances such as alcohol away from the fetus which is why we recommend 'no alcohol in pregnancy is the safest option'.


Because the fetus lacks the ability to process the alcohol as the liver is not fully formed, they absorb the alcohol and can have the same blood alcohol content (BAC) or higher than the mother and it remains at that level for a longer period of time.See the table below for indications of how long alcohol can remain in the blood stream.


BAC         Metabolism time until no measurable alcohol in the bloodstream

0.02          1.33 hours

0.05          3.33 hours

0.08          5.33 hours

.10            6.25 hours

.16            10 hours

.20            12.5 hours





What is a standard drink?


In Australia a standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol which equales 12.5mL of pure alcohol

Standard drinks measure the amount of alcohol in the drink, not the amount of liquid

What is a standard drink?











What are the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure?


Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause disabilities that are lifelong and may not be seen at birth



Brain damage

Birth defects

Delayed development

Learning problems

Social & behavioural problems









This can lead to:

  • difficulty planning setting goals, being on time and managing money
  • problems at school
  • multiple foster care placements
  • inappropriate sexual behaviour (victim & perpetrator)
  • inability to live independently
  • unemployment
  • poverty
  • trouble with the law




Read about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder