Alcohol in Pregnancy


Reviewed by Clinical Guidelines Committee
June 2012
Clinical Guidelines Back Newborn Services Home Page

Management of the Neonate whose Mother has been Using or Abusing Alcohol During Pregnancy

  1. Alcohol is a teratogen. There is no known safe amount of alcohol, or time to drink alcohol, in pregnancy. If a mother identifies herself or is identified during pregnancy as posing a risk to the fetus, the the management should be as follows.
  2. These infants are at risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. This includes Fetal Alcohol Effect, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is difficult to diagnose in the newborn period.
  3. They are also at risk of withdrawal particularly if the mothers are drinking alcohol during labour and delivery.
  4. The prevalence is thought to be 1%, although no local data exists and it is thought to be underestimated.
  5. There is also the risk of respiratory depression in these circumstances.

Follow Up Arrangements

These may need to be in conjunction with Social Services if already involved.  Social work evaluation is usually required to look at child protection issues and for referral of mother to a detoxification programme if appropriate.

More protracted follow up although desirable, is probably not practical.

If neurodevelopmental problems are evident, then appropriate referral to Child Development Services should be made.

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