Alcohol and pregnancy in Norway

There is no safe lower limit and no safe stage during which you can drink alcohol when you are expecting a child. Alcohol can harm your unborn baby any time during your pregnancy.

Pregnant who don't drink
Foto: Helsedirektoratet

There is no safe amount or safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy or when planning a pregnancy. The health authorities in Norway therefore recommend total abstinence during pregnancy.

Avoid all forms of alcohol (beer, "alcopops", cider, wine, spirits etc.) throughout your pregnancy. Many women are used to drinking alcohol in different situations. When you are pregnant it is important to abstain.

If you have been drinking

Some women worry because they drank alcohol before they knew they were pregnant.

The vast majority of women who had some alcohol before knowing they were pregnant, give birth to healthy babies. The most important thing is to avoid alcohol as soon as you know you are pregnant. Talk to your midwife, regular GP ("fastlege") or social services if you are worried or need support to change your drinking habits and abstain from alcohol.

No safe level

There is no safe lower limit and no safe stage during which you can drink alcohol when you are expecting a baby. Alcohol can harm your unborn baby at any stage of your pregnancy.

The same amount of alcohol can affect fetuses in different ways. It is likely that babies have varying degrees of vulnerability. The genetic characteristics of the baby are also a factor.

In addition, the time of exposure to alcohol is of significance, as are factors such as the mother’s age, health and lifestyle.

What can happen to your baby if you drink?

All alcohol that a pregnant woman drinks is shared with the fetus. Alcohol is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and transferred to the fetus via placenta.

All fetal organs may be affected and cell development may be impaired. The brain is particularly vulnerable because it develops throughout the pregnancy.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of 

  • miscarriage
  • stillbirth
  • premature delivery 
  • poor fetal growth
  • diminished intellectual capacity
  • learning disabilities
  • behavioural and social problems
  • concentration and memory problems
  • restlessness and hyperactivity
  • difficulties of understanding the consequences of one's actions
  • malformations

The risk of injury increases if you drink a lot and often.

Foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)

The disorders are classified under the umbrella term foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). 

The most severe diagnosis is foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Children with FAS are typically affected by 

  • poor growth 
  • brain damage
  • distinctive facial characteristics

The risk of FASD increases the more alcohol the mother drinks, and the more often she drinks.

Help to stop drinking

If you still drink alcohol or if you are having trouble quitting, contact your doctor or midwife for help as soon as possible. They can refer you to counseling and follow-up that will help you stay abstinent throughout the rest of your pregnancy.

If you have a friend or know someone who drinks alcohol during pregnancy, encourage her to seek help. If she is using alcohol or other drugs, she can get help to protect the child from injury.

Non-alcoholic options

​There are many good non-alcoholic options in addition to apple juice, non-alcoholic wine or beer. Find your favorites for you and your child! Remember that most drinks can also be made without alcohol.

Breastfeeding and alcohol

You should avoid alcohol for the first six weeks after birth and limit your alcohol intake in the months afterwards. See more advice on breastfeeding and alcohol here (in Norwegian).