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Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (PAE) is not caused intentionally.  Many women drink alcohol when they are unaware they are pregnant.  Over 50% of pregnancies are unplanned.  Some women may also be unaware of the effects alcohol may have on the developing baby.  It is never too late to stop drinking alcohol during a pregnancy. If the father drinks alcohol, it will not cause Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (PAE). 

There is no safe time, no safe amount, and no safe type of alcohol to be used during pregnancy or while breastfeeding

The baby’s brain is developing throughout the entire pregnancy and after their birth.  Alcohol exposure can lead to birth defects and life long brain damage.

Canadian FASD Guidelines recommend screening all women during and after their pregnancies for alcohol use.  This screening is to help identify and support women who may be at risk for an alcohol use disorder, and to support children at risk for FASD.

Women at risk of having a child with FASD need our support and care.  Sadly, many birth mothers of individuals with FASD were emotionally, sexually, and/or physically abused in their childhood and/or their adulthood.  Some birth mothers also have FASD themselves. There is a lot of stigma attached to admitting alcohol use in a pregnancy.  This stigma can affect individuals and families from seeking the help and getting the support they need.

Minimize the Risk

  • If planning a pregnancy it is recommended to stop drinking alcohol or using any other substances before you get pregnant.  It is important for father and mother to be as healthy as possible before, during and after a pregnancy.

  • If you are having sex without any type of birth control, avoid drinking alcohol or using any other substances.

  • If you are worried about your alcohol and/or substance use, talk to your doctor, community health nurse, midwife, or healthcare provider.


Debolt, Donna (2018, September).  FASD Informed practice considerations.  Developmental Services Resource Centre Waterloo Region.  Waterloo, Ontario.

McLachlin, Kaitlyn (2017, November).  Hamilton FASD Conference 2017.  Moving Forward FASD Conference.  Hamilton, Ontario.

Scott, Louise A (2016, March). FASD 101 +: The Practical Realities.  Hamilton Wentworth District School Board.  Hamilton, Ontario.

Cook JL, Green CR, Lilley CM, et al.; (2015) Canadian Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Network. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: a guideline for diagnosis across the lifespan. CAMJ.

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