Women should avoid drinking red wine during pregnancy because alcohol can have harmful effects on the fetus.

Experts are not sure how much alcohol can lead to harm. The most common recommendation is to avoid it altogether.

In this article, we look at the possible risks of drinking red wine at different stages of pregnancy. We also discuss whether drinking red wine during pregnancy is ever safe.

a woman who may be pregnant touching a glass of wine that she may soon be drinkingShare on Pinterest
Alcohol may be harmful to the fetus during pregnancy.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no safe amount of red wine or other alcohol to consume during pregnancy.

Alcohol is a chemical that gets into the blood when someone drinks it. In pregnant women, the alcohol passes to the fetus through the umbilical cord. Developing fetuses are unable to process or metabolize the chemical, which means that it poses numerous risks.

It is well-known that alcohol can increase the risk of congenital disabilities, pregnancy loss, and stillbirth. It can also lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

FASD is an umbrella term that refers to a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. These disabilities have no treatments or cure, and they may be mild or severe.

The most extreme form of FASD is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Children with FAS may have abnormal facial features, such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip, and a small head. They tend to be shorter than average and weigh less than their peers.

Other symptoms include:

  • sleep disorders
  • sucking problems as a baby
  • vision disorders
  • hearing problems
  • heart and kidney conditions
  • poor coordination
  • poor memory
  • hyperactive behavior
  • difficulty concentrating
  • learning disabilities
  • speech and language delays
  • low IQ
  • poor reasoning and judgment skills
  • difficulty at school, particularly with math

FAS is usually associated with heavy or binge drinking during pregnancy.

Women may receive conflicting information about the safety of drinking red wine or other alcohol at various stages of pregnancy. As a result, some believe that the first trimester is the most dangerous time to drink alcohol. Conversely, others have heard that a moderate amount of wine may be beneficial.

However, because the fetus’s brain is developing all the time in the womb, experts have not proven any amount of alcohol to be safe at any point during pregnancy. That includes the first trimester, when women may not yet know that they are pregnant.

During the first 3 months of pregnancy, alcohol can lead to the baby having abnormal facial features. At any time during pregnancy, drinking can cause problems such as low birth weight and behavioral issues.

The mom and baby advocacy group March of Dimes state that every pregnancy is different. Some women who drink red wine while pregnant have healthy babies. Others, even those who drink just a small amount of alcohol, have babies with serious health conditions.

The only way to be sure is to avoid alcohol while trying to get pregnant and throughout pregnancy.

It can sometimes be difficult to stop drinking red wine during pregnancy. March of Dimes suggest avoiding alcohol by:

  • staying away from alcohol-related venues and events if it will be difficult not to drink at them
  • replacing alcoholic drinks with a fruit juice and using a fun straw or cocktail umbrella
  • disposing of any alcohol in the home
  • asking friends and family for support

Women planning to become pregnant should start avoiding alcohol before attempting to conceive. Alcohol can affect fertility, and it can harm the fetus as soon as conception occurs. It is best to develop the habit of avoiding alcohol early so that it becomes easier to avoid red wine during pregnancy.

Anyone who needs help to stop drinking should speak to their doctor or join a local Alcoholics Anonymous support group.

The 2015–2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans note that scientists have linked drinking to motor vehicle crashes, violence, sexual risk behaviors, high blood pressure, and several cancers, including breast cancer. It can also damage the liver, leading to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and causing liver disease.

The guidelines advise that if people are going to drink, they do so in moderation. That means no more than one drink a day for females and a maximum of two drinks a day for males.

They also note that pregnant women should not drink red wine or any other kind of alcohol. Other people who should avoid alcohol altogether include:

  • those who are under the age of 21 years
  • people who have medical conditions, such as diabetes or liver disease
  • people who take medications that interact with alcohol, which include Claritin (loratadine), Sudafed (chlorpheniramine), and Valium (diazepam)
  • people who are recovering from alcohol use disorder

People carrying out activities that require coordination or alertness, such as driving a car, should not drink alcohol at all.

Other alcohol

All alcohol acts in the same way in the body. Therefore, any type of alcohol, whether it is red wine, beer, or liquor, can potentially harm an unborn baby if a woman consumes it during pregnancy.

Women should avoid drinking red wine during pregnancy. There is no safe level of alcohol consumption at this time.

Although some women who drink when pregnant go on to have healthy babies, others who drink just a small amount may experience pregnancy complications that can affect the fetus.

Damage can occur at any point during the pregnancy, and all types of alcohol present the same risk. The only way to be safe is to avoid alcohol altogether while trying to get pregnant and throughout pregnancy.

Women can seek help online and get support from loved ones to avoid drinking red wine during pregnancy. Anyone with concerns about their alcohol consumption can speak to a doctor for medical advice.