Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Pregnancy Resources – Help With Drinking

Need immediate support?
Please call 8-1-1 for 24/7 general health information and advice. Indigenous people across Canada can also call the toll-free Hope for Wellness Helpline at 1-855-242-3310.

Pregnancy Resources

Here are some common questions that you may be wondering about.  Click on each one to find out more.

 

How can alcohol affect my baby and what can I do?

 

Download PDF

 

Did you know that any amount of alcohol during pregnancy and breastfeeding or chestfeeding can affect your baby?

 

Drinking alcohol while pregnant can:

  • Harm your baby’s body, brain, and organs
  • Impact your child’s ability to learn and focus
  • Contribute to behaviour and mental health challenges throughout your child’s life

 

The good news is that every little bit you can cut down on drinking can improve your baby’s health.

 

Have you considered cutting down on how much you drink? We know cutting down or stopping drinking can be hard. Here are some tips that can help:

  1. Reach out to people that will support and encourage you on your journey
  2. Ask partners and friends not to drink around you
  3. Choose alcohol-free drinks that you enjoy
  4. Do activities that don’t involve alcohol
  5. Plan hobbies or other fun activities for when you’d usually drink alcohol
  6. Try other ways to relax and connect, such as a walk or meeting friends in the park
  7. Reach out to your doctor, midwife, counsellor, 8-1-1, or a phone hotline

 

 

You, your partner, and everyone in your support circle can play a role in helping you have a healthier pregnancy. Check out these tips for eating well, taking care of yourself and having other healthy habits during pregnancy.

 

Does alcohol affect the chances of getting pregnant (conceiving)?

 

Download PDF

 

Any amount of alcohol can lower the chances of getting pregnant

  • Alcohol can disrupt the release of eggs during the monthly cycle (ovulation) and cause irregular periods
  • Frequent drinking of any amount of alcohol can harm sperm quality and quantity
  • People using in vitro fertilization (IVF) to get pregnant may also have a tougher time if either partner has been drinking any alcohol
  • Larger amounts of alcohol have bigger impacts on getting pregnant

 

For a better chance of getting pregnant, cut back on drinking or stop altogether, if that’s an option for you:

  • If you are using IVF, try to reduce drinking as much as possible, particularly during an IVF cycle.
  • Many people find it easier to cut back or quit when partners (and even close friends and family) do it together and support each other through the process.
  • Quitting is hard for many people. For tips on how to cut back, see the answer in the previous question.
  • Reach out to a trusted health care provider for guidance and support.

 

If you are drinking before you are pregnant:

  • If you are drinking and having sex without using birth control (example: pills or condoms), take pregnancy tests regularly.
  • It’s very common for people to find out they are pregnant and realize that they had been drinking earlier in the pregnancy. This can lead to feelings of worry, shame, or being judged. However, it’s never too late to make choices to stop or reduce your drinking, and there is supportive, non-judgmental help available.

 

Does occasional drinking affect my breastmilk or chestmilk, and what should I do?

 

Download PDF

 

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Alcohol can lower the milk supply and lower the flow of milk during a feed. This can cause the baby to grow and develop more slowly.
  • Alcohol can enter milk quickly – it reaches its highest level within 30 to 60 minutes of drinking.
  • Feeding the baby after drinking alcohol can make them drowsy or weak. It can also cause problems with growth, movement, sleep, or their ability to learn.
  • Infants under 3 months are more impacted because their livers are still developing and are unable to break down alcohol.
  • Avoiding alcohol in breast or chest milk is safest for the baby, especially until the baby is 8 weeks old.
  • However, occasional drinking should not stop you from breast or chest feeding if you would like to do so, since human milk provides complete nutrients for the baby. If you are actively drinking on a regular basis, you should not breast or chest feed.

 

You can support the baby’s growth and health by avoiding alcohol or cutting down as much as possible while the baby is dependent on your milk.

 

If you drink occasionally, here are some tips for lowering the risk to the baby:

 

  • If it’s possible, avoid drinking until the baby is at least 8 weeks old. Younger infants are not able to break down alcohol.
  • When nursing, try to feed the baby right before you start to drink alcohol. Or, pump and store your milk before you begin drinking.
  • If you have been drinking before it’s time to feed, use stored milk or formula if you can.
  • Try to wait for the alcohol to leave your milk (about 2 hours per drink) before feeding the baby. Use the Alcohol and Milk Calculator for exact timing.
  • “Pumping and dumping” will not speed up the clearing of alcohol from your milk.
  • Eating food while you drink helps to lower how much alcohol gets into your milk.

 

Learn more about using substances and human milk:

 

Should I share a bed with my infant if I’ve been drinking?

 

Download PDF

 

For the baby’s safety, don’t share a bed after drinking alcohol

  • Many parents share a bed with their infants while sleeping. Bed-sharing is common in many cultures.
  • Drinking alcohol can cause drowsiness or heavy sleep, making the parent less alert and aware of the baby’s needs or their position in the bed. This can increase the risk of rolling onto the baby or missing feeding cues.

 

 

Learn more about safer sleeping:

 

How can I support a pregnant person in my life?

 

Download Image

 

Check out this resource that has plenty of tips and suggestions for how you can encourage and support a pregnant person to cut back on their drinking.

 

 

Be the Circle of Support

 

When we support our loved ones to avoid alcohol during pregnancy and breastfeeding or chestfeeding, we also support the baby’s health.

 

1. SUPPORT THEIR DECISION TO NOT DRINK

 

“I’m so proud of you for being on a health kick!”

“Oh cool, what can I get you instead?”

 

2. JOIN THEM IN ACTIVITIES THAT DON’T INVOLVE ALCOHOL

 

Do a hobby such as a sport or art

Hang out at a coffee shop

Watch a movie or tv

Go with them to community events

 

3. HELP THEM GET A BALANCE OF REST, EXERCISE, AND GOOD NUTRITION

 

Cook or clean for them

Phone them regularly to go for walks

Buy them groceries

Run errands for them while they rest

Help watch their other children/babysitting, or pet sitting

 

4. HELP THEM FIND OTHER WAYS TO RELAX

 

Recommend books to read

Go for a walk together

Craft, hang out, go to a movie or concert together

 

5. OFFER NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINKS

 

Juice, soda or tonic, or mocktails

Garnish non-alcoholic drinks with candies/fruits/flowers

 

6. AVOID DRINKING AROUND THEM

 

In solidarity, choose to not drink when you’re together

Partners could choose to not drink during the pregnancy

 

7. HELP WITH HOUSE CHORES OR GETTING TO APPOINTMENTS

 

Offer them a ride

Help with dishes or laundry

 

8. CELEBRATE THEIR EFFORTS AND SUCCESSES

 

Write them a personal note

Give them a pamper basket for some “me time”

Plan a get together

Ask them if you can donate to an organization they support in their name