Once that little blue line appears confirming your pregnancy, you might be really worried about any alcohol you drank before you knew you were pregnant.
If you’re asking yourself ‘Is it bad I drank alcohol before I knew I was pregnant?’ here are some facts that might help.
Experts recommend couples should make significant lifestyle changes at least three months before conceiving.
This includes cutting out habits such as smoking and binge drinking, as well as improving your diet.
In reality, up to 50% of pregnancies aren’t planned and many women don’t notice the early signs of pregnancy.
Here are 9 things to consider if you drank alcohol before you knew you were pregnant.
#1: What happens if I drank alcohol before I knew I was pregnant?
First, try not to worry. Whether your drink consisted of a small glass of wine with dinner or quite a few more drinks at a birthday party, worrying about it won’t make a bit of difference.
It’s unlikely the alcohol you drank before knowing you were pregnant has harmed your unborn child. Before you’ve missed your period, there’s little you can do that will hurt or help your pregnancy.
Pregnancy is calculated in weeks from the date of the first day of your last menstrual period. You probably conceived around week 2 or 3, depending on when you ovulated, when you had sex, and when implantation occurred.
By the time your period is due, you’re already entering week 4 of pregnancy. Most women don’t test for pregnancy until they’ve missed a period, which is around the time your baby’s placenta will begin to form.
In reality, then, any drinking you’ve done up to this point is unlikely to affect your baby.
The placenta starts functioning between 8 and 12 weeks – on average at about 10 weeks of pregnancy.
Your GP, midwife or gynecologist can offer the best advice, tailored to your situation, so make sure they’re in the know.
It won’t be the first time your healthcare provider has been faced with a confession from a pregnant woman who has drunk alcohol, and it certainly won’t be the last.
#2: Can you drink alcohol while trying to get pregnant?
If you’re consciously trying to get pregnant, the advice from all health professionals is to take the best possible care of yourself.
This means looking after yourself as if you’re already pregnant.
It’s recommended you stop drinking and smoking, as these things can affect your chances of successful conception.
The studies on alcohol use while trying to conceive are limited. Some studies suggest if a woman drinks small amounts it is unlikely to cause health issues for her unborn baby.
Most research, however, recognizes there isn’t a way to identify any level that is safe.
Experts say that it’s not worth the risk and advise any woman trying to conceive to avoid alcohol.
#3: Does drinking alcohol affect female fertility?
There are studies that show moderate to excessive consumption of alcohol can affect a woman’s ability to conceive.
This research links excessive alcohol use to reduced number and quality of your eggs, as well as earlier menopause.
It also shows women with high alcohol use are more likely to seek help in getting pregnant and more likely to need fertility treatment.
Be sure to read Investigating Infertility – Preliminary Tests for information about things you might need to consider if you’re having trouble conceiving.
#4: Can drinking alcohol affect male fertility?
The study mentioned above also showed a link between long-term excessive alcohol consumption and male fertility.
Among other serious things, men who drank excessively showed a reduction in the amount of sperm production and also a decrease in the quality of sperm.
Any man trying to become a father would probably like to know if his little swimmers were going to be affected by his drinking. He would want them in top-notch condition for the important job of conception.
There are other causes of male infertility.
If you need more advice, read BellyBelly’s article Male Infertility – What Causes Male Infertility?.
#5: How early in pregnancy does alcohol affect the baby?
Alcohol consumption in the first three months of pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, and premature birth.
Once the placenta forms and begins to function, then there is an increased risk of your baby having specific birth defects related to alcohol consumption.
Research shows drinking while pregnant, especially in excessive amounts, can cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
The diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is based on the appearance of facial abnormalities, growth problems, brain damage, and cognitive and behavioral concerns.
The study shows as the amount of alcohol during pregnancy increases the degree of fetal alcohol syndrome and other birth defects also increases.
The research also shows there’s no way to identify a safe amount of alcohol exposure for the growing embryo in early pregnancy.
Once the placenta is formed it’s the lifeline for your growing baby. Alcohol can easily cross over the placenta, and to your baby, in higher doses than it would enter your bloodstream.
Most mothers want only the best for themselves and their unborn babies. Arming yourself with this information could be vital in protecting your unborn child and helping you reduce your intake of alcohol during pregnancy.
#6: Can drinking alcohol the night before affect a pregnancy test?
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is the hormone detected when you take that first, exciting (in most cases) pee on a test stick.
It can take a while for the hormone to reach high enough amounts in your bloodstream to be detected by blood tests.
Read hCG Levels – What Should They Be Each Week? for more information.
Alcoholic beverages are unlikely to affect a pregnancy test result. However, they can have an effect on your unborn child if you were to receive a positive result.
If you suspect, even for a minute, you could be pregnant, or if you have been trying to get pregnant, the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to say no to that alcoholic drink.
#7: Can alcohol hurt a baby in the first week?
Remember, pregnancy is calculated, in weeks, from the date of the first day of your last menstrual period.
So technically you’re not pregnant in the first week, as you can’t conceive until you ovulate. For most women, ovulation usually happens during the middle of their menstrual cycle.
Binge drinking of alcohol during this time might inhibit implantation. So it’s possible for a woman to conceive but go on to have her period, as normal.
As we don’t know what level of alcohol is actually safe in pregnancy, it’s best to avoid it as soon as you decide to try to conceive, or as soon as you suspect you’re pregnant.
#8: Can drinking at 3 weeks pregnant harm the baby?
Around 6-11 days after ovulation, the fertilized egg implants into your uterus. You’re officially pregnant now, but your period hasn’t yet been missed.
By this time, the fertilized egg is a ball of cells, which will start to divide into the placenta and the embryo. The placenta won’t begin to function until around week 8 of pregnancy.
Drinking at this stage is unlikely to harm your baby but, given this is a time of rapid development, the baby is vulnerable.
Even though the mother’s and the baby’s blood don’t actually mix, oxygen and nutrients are delivered through this amazing organ – the placenta – and unfortunately, alcohol can also pass through easily.
Since we already know there’s no safe level of alcohol intake, it isn’t worth risking the health and development of your unborn child when you know you are pregnant.
#9: I drank alcohol before I knew I was pregnant – will my baby be ok?
Instead of wasting time worrying about the effects of past drinks, focus your efforts on choosing a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy.
Do not waste your energy worrying and feeling stressed over a couple of drinks. You’ll already be starting to deal with other pregnancy symptoms and signs, such as morning sickness, and keeping up with advice from your doctor.
It’s important to try to keep your stress levels to a minimum during pregnancy.
Instead of worrying about something you can’t change, pour your efforts into something you can. Join a prenatal yoga class, drink more water, and spend some time bonding with your unborn baby.