I was drinking before I found out I was pregnant, is the baby okay?

Man and woman preparing food and drinking wine in domestic kitchen.
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Question: I was drinking before I found out I was pregnant, is the baby okay?

Hey, life happens sometimes, and even moms with the best intentions find themselves in a situation where they were drinking, smoking or otherwise engaged in behaviors that they wouldn't consider in pregnancy. But birth control fails, life happens and sometimes you can't do anything about it. So just what is the risk to your pregnancy and baby?

Answer: While it is known that drinking in pregnancy is the cause of some major problems from fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) to fetal alcohol effects (FAE), miscarriage, birth defects and other problems in the child, the good news is that drinking in very early pregnancy, usually before a pregnancy test would be positive, is typically not a problem. This is sometimes thought of as a protective effect for those weeks when you don't realize you are pregnant.

Your baby's major organs begin to develop around the third week of pregnancy, giving you a tiny cushion. While it is best to discontinue drinking and other behaviors known to cause potential harm to your baby before even attempting to get pregnant, sometimes it doesn't work that way.

There is some preliminary research that says even a few drinks this early may cause fetal cell death. This may or may not mean trouble for the baby or pregnancy.

One piece of good news is that early pregnancy tests are now more sensitive. This means that you can discover your pregnancy sooner and take corrective measures to stop unhealthy behaviors like drinking and smoking. This gives your baby the best chance at a healthy start.

Be sure to be honest with your doctor or midwife at your prenatal visits.

Explain to them what happened before you knew you were pregnant. They will then have a chance to do extra testing if called for, reassure you or advise you in helping to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Don't be embarrassed or worried - they have experience dealing with this on a daily basis.

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