Why Women Trying to Conceive Really Should Stop Drinking

Photo: iStock Photo / The Bump
Photo: iStock Photo / The Bump

Although we all know the importance of a good cocktail, a new study by the Loyola University Health System says that women trying to conceive should stop drinking, since alcohol is associated with babies being born with mental delays, facial clefting and gastroschisis, a birth defect in the abdominal wall.

“A woman can conceive at any point in her cycle, so women should avoid alcohol well in advance of becoming pregnant,” says Jean Goodman, MD, lead investigator, division director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at LUHS. “We recommend that women begin taking folic acid supplements starting three months prior to conception. This is an ideal time to refrain from alcohol use as well because you are in the mindset of preparing your body for pregnancy.”

Their research included studies of 36 women who had babies with gastroschisis, and 76 without, finding a link between gastroschisis and alcohol use one month prior to conception.

“Preconception programs focused on alcohol abstinence may help to reverse the increasing incidence of this birth defect worldwide,” says Jean.

It’s always good to keep an eye on your alcohol intake, since after you give birth, the International Guidelines on Drinking and Pregnancy say moms who are breastfeeding shouldn’t drink. Taking prenatal vitamins at least two months before you conceive as also helpful, including at least 400 mcg of folic acid each day as far as a year or two in advance.

When taken before and during the early weeks of pregnancy, folic acid greatly decreases the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida. Folic acid is also found in foods like spinach, black beans, orange juice and strawberries.

Did you give up drinking before trying to conceive? Do you agree with this study?

Plus, more from The Bump:

How Long Does It Take Alcohol to Leave Your System?

What Is “Pumping and Dumping” and How Does It Work?

Foods and Drinks to Avoid When You’re Breastfeeding Baby