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Published, January 27th 2005

Risks of alcohol consumption related to conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding

Around 80% of women of child-bearing age in the Netherlands drink alcoholic beverages. Many women stop consuming alcohol as soon as they become pregnant, or even earlier if they wish to become pregnant. Nevertheless, it is estimated that 35–50% of the pregnant women in the Netherlands continue to consume alcohol. The percentage of non-pregnant Dutch women who drink ‘heavily’ ranges from 3% to 12%, depending on the age group concerned. Heavy drinkers consume an average of six or more standard drinks of an alcoholic beverage per day. Heavy drinkers are less inclined to stop drinking alcohol after discovering that they are pregnant than women whose alcohol consumption is lower.

This advisory report concerns the consequences of moderate alcohol use for the fertility and for the growth and development of the (unborn) child. The central questions addressed are as follows:

  1. What effects does moderate alcohol use prior to conception have on fertility and pregnancy?
  2. What effects does moderate alcohol use during pregnancy have on pregnancy and the unborn child?
  3. What effects does moderate alcohol use during breastfeeding have on the baby?
  4. How effective is health education aimed at reducing alcohol use?
  5. What advice on alcohol use should be given to women who wish to become pregnant, women who are already pregnant, and women who are breastfeeding?

This publication may be cited as follows

Health Council of the Netherlands. Risks of alcohol consumption related to conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding. The Hague: Health Council of the Netherlands, 2005; publication no. 2004/22. ISBN 90-5549-000-8