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Can Drinking Alcohol in Early Pregnancy Cause a Miscarriage?

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Updated May 30, 2014

Question: Can Drinking Alcohol in Early Pregnancy Cause a Miscarriage?

Most people know that alcohol and pregnancy don't mix, but what exactly are the risks? Can alcohol cause miscarriages?

Answer:

The answer is that it depends. Having a few episodes of binge drinking in pregnancy doesn't seem to cause early miscarriages, according to research, although it might cause developmental problems. Binge drinking is statistically linked to increased risk of stillbirth.

Regular drinking during pregnancy is linked to miscarriages, such as having five or more drinks per week on a regular basis. In addition, alcohol in pregnancy can cause a disorder called fetal alcohol syndrome -- and no one knows exactly what the threshold is for causing the disorder. For these reasons, many doctors advise abstaining from alcohol in pregnancy and others suggest one glass of wine a week or less as a good limit.

That being said, if you had a miscarriage and are wondering about the cause, having a glass or two of wine before you knew you were pregnant is unlikely to have been the reason.

Sources:

Henderson, Jane, Ulrik Kesmodel, and Ron Gray, "Systematic review of the fetal effects of prenatal binge-drinking." BMJ 2007. Accessed 15 Mar 2008.

Rasch, V., "Cigarette, alcohol, and caffeine consumption: risk factors for spontaneous abortion." Acta Obstetrics Gynecology Scandinavia Feb 2003. Accessed 15 Mar 2008.

Strandberg-Larsen, Katrine, Naja Rod Nielsen, Morten Grønbæk, Per Kragh Andersen, and Anne-Marie Nybo Andersen, "Binge Drinking in Pregnancy and Risk of Fetal Death." Obstetrics & Gynecology 2008. Accessed 15 Mar 2008.

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