Should you need urgent health advice please contact your GP or call NHS 111. In an emergency please visit A&E or call 999

We offer tailored content specific to your area. Check below to find your local area.

Choose your location for articles and services where your live:

Help with alcohol and drug use in pregnancy

Alcohol in pregnancy

Experts are not completely sure how much (if any) alcohol is safe during pregnancy. For that reason the chief medical officer advises that, while you are pregnant, you should not drink any alcohol at all to reduce the risks to your unborn baby.

Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause long-term harm to your baby. The more you drink, the higher the risk.

When you drink alcohol, it passes through the placenta to the baby. Their liver develops late in the pregnancy, so they will be unable to process the alcohol, and this can severely affect their health and development.

Drinking alcohol early in the pregnancy (during the first three months) increases the risk of miscarriage and premature birth. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can lead to problems with your baby’s development, such as behaviour problems and learning disabilities. Drinking heavily throughout pregnancy can cause your baby to develop a serious condition called foetal alcohol syndrome.

Many women stop drinking when they start trying to get pregnant and may go off the taste of alcohol in early pregnancy. However if you have drunk alcohol before finding out you are pregnant it is advised that you avoid further drinking.

If you would like to discuss this further, or feel you need support with your alcohol use, please speak to your doctor or midwife. More information can be found here.

Taking drugs during pregnancy

Using drugs during pregnancy can have a serious effect on your unborn baby.

If you regularly use recreational drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin, it’s important to tackle this if you become pregnant.

However, it is advised not to stop abruptly without accessing medical advice. This is because there could be serious withdrawal symptoms or other side effects.

If you are using drugs, please contact your GP or midwife, as there are specialist services for pregnant women who are using drugs, and they will be able to get you the help you need.

You can also contact FRANK  for friendly, confidential drugs advice, including information on the different types of help available.

The FRANK helpline is open every day, 24 hours a day on 0300 123 6600.

Page last reviewed: 25-01-2023

Next review due: 25-01-2026