Preconception health is important whether or not you are planning a pregnancy.
The safest choice is no alcohol if there is chance of pregnancy or when planning a pregnancy.
About 62% of pregnancies are unplanned and are confirmed at about 4 to 6 weeks of pregnancy. If drinking alcohol, use effective birth control effectively, every time you have intercourse.
Drinking alcohol can lead to unsafe sex practices and can increase the risk of an unplanned pregnancy.
Consider the risk of drinking alcohol and exposing a baby to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
FASD is a term that describes the harm caused by alcohol use during pregnancy. At any time during a pregnancy, a baby expose to alcohol may have:
- Brain damage
- Vision and hearing difficulties
- Heart, kidneys or bones that are not properly formed
The impacts of FASD last a lifetime. A child with FASD may have mild or serious problems with:
- Thinking things through
- Understanding consequences
- Getting along with others
- Life skills
- Regulating their emotions
As long as alcohol is consumed, use effective and accessible contraception that is appropriate for both partners.
Know about birth control if drinking alcohol to prevent FASD. Learn about birth control options such as condoms, IUD, birth control pills and morning after pill.
- In Canada, the IUD is the most effective form of reversible contraception available. Using an IUD can reduce unwanted pregnancies 10 times more than using other methods like the birth control pill.
- Choose a birth control option that fits into the context of your life, culture and relationships.
- Decide on a birth control method that you will not forget to take or that is accessible at all times.
- Talk about effective birth control that is right for both partners. Refer to: It’s a plan – Helping you make decisions about contraception
Know your drinking limits and evaluate your drinking
To assess your drinking, complete the Check Your Drinking (CYD) Survey
Refer to Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines or watch this short video about Understanding Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines
Going over your recommended alcohol limit increases the chances of having unplanned pregnancy and exposing a baby to FASD. The limits are:
- 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than 2 drinks a day most days
- 15 drinks a week for men, with no more than 3 drinks a day most day
If you use a large glass you may go over the recommended limits. Check the label – alcohol content varies. Adjust the serving size accordingly.
A standard drink, according to Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines is:
- Beer (5%): 341 ml (12 oz)
- Wine (10-12%): 142 ml (5 oz)
- Fortified Wine (16-18%): 86ml (3 oz)
- Liquor (40%): 43 ml (1.5 oz)
Binge drinking is having on any single occasion more than:
- 3 standard drinks for women
- 4 standard drinks for men
Heavy drinking is consuming on one occasion:
- 5 or more drinks, 12 or more times over the past year
- An Ontario FASD survey in 2107 indicated that 11% reported binge drinking four times or more in the last 6 months. View the Rethink your Drinking videos to know more about your alcohol use.
It is OK to ask for help. Consider:
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- Local Public Health Unit
- Access to Addiction, Mental Health, and Problem Gambling Services, 1-866-531-2600
- Motherisk Alcohol and Substance Use Helpline, 1-877-327-4636
- Addictions Treatment for First Nations and Inuit
- App: Saying When: How to quit drinking or cut down
- Recipe Cards – Mocktails for Mom
It is never too late to quit drinking alcohol. If unable to stop completely, try using less, and less often. There are resources in the community to help you.