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Do you need to say goodbye to alcohol the moment you decide to try to conceive a baby? Or would it be OK for you to have the odd drink here and there?

Many women find themselves facing this dilemma, but there is no need to stress too much science has all the answers. 

Why avoid alcohol while TTC?

Couples with a responsible approach to attempting to get pregnant take all kinds of precautions that give a potential pregnancy the best possible start. Certain lifestyle recommendations are limited to the female partner, while some others can be made by both partners. Both men and women will increase their fertility if they stop smoking, for example. Eating a healthy, balanced diet that include foods from all major food groups and exercising regularly are also fertility-boosting choices. Taking a folic acid supplement is a great choice for women who are trying to get pregnant this supplement has been shown to reduce the chances of birth defects in babies. Because folic acid needs a while to build up inside the body, it is best to start taking it while you are still trying to conceive, and not to commence only once you realize you are already pregnant.

The choice of avoiding alcohol while you are trying for a baby can be compared to faithfully using a 400 mg folic acid supplement daily, perhaps for months, while you are hoping to get pregnant. When you are trying to conceive, it is safe to operate under the assumption that you could be pregnant most of the month. Alcohol can be very harmful for a fetus, especially in the very earliest stages of pregnancy. A recent study showed that an occasional drink during pregnancy isn't terrible. Interestingly, other studies show that only very small amounts of alcohol are risky during pregnancy, and especially at the very beginning of the first trimester. That one glass of wine may be the one you shouldn't be having, because you just conceived but you didn't know it yet.

You can enjoy a drink occasionally at the right time of the month!

Women who are trying to conceive can enjoy the occasional drink (or two, or three!) safely. The only "secret" is a reliable ovulation-detection technique. You know that you be pregnant between the start of your period and your next ovulation. It is the luteal phase the time between your ovulation and the next expected period that is dangerous territory when it comes to alcohol. You can roughly calculate when you ovulate by using an ovulation calendar, like the one on our site.

Or, you can get very reliable and precise results with either ovulation tests (also known as ovulation predictor kits) or fertility charting and measuring your basal body temperature (BBT) every day. Knowing when you ovulate can definitely increase your chances of getting pregnant as soon as possible which is what most couples who have decided to go for it really want. It can also guide you if you are a woman who want to have a drink every now and then. When you know that you are in your follicular phase, the time before your ovulation, you know that you are not pregnant and that there is no tiny baby to harm very certainly.

Drinking during pregnancy?

How about the occasional glass of wine or beer while you are already expecting? Lots of women who get pregnant were not actually trying, and so many of them will have had a drink before they found out they were pregnant. Perhaps they even had lots of alcohol! This is really worrying to many women. The best that can be done in this situation is to live as healthily as you can, and to talk to a doctor as soon as you can.

For everyone else, it may be hard to decide whether that one glass of wine is safe, or dangerous. To an extent, drinking (a little) during pregnancy is a cultural issue in some places, people say that beer is good for milk production, while a glass of wine at dinner during pregnancy is perfectly normal in other places. Since no amount of alcohol has been proven to be safe during pregnancy, it is probably best to stick to no alcohol.

  • Infographic by Steadyhealth.com
  • Infographic by Steadyhealth.com

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