Researched and written by Vicki Meade

Patient education pamphlet published by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. January 1995, Washington, DC


The use of alcohol is common in our society. It is served at most social events. Many people like wine with dinner or a cocktail after a long day of work. Alcohol is so common, in fact, that it is easy to forget what it really is: a drug. It’s a legal drug that can taste good and bring pleasant effects. It can also cause serious problems if consumed in excess or at the wrong times.

The effects of alcohol pose special concerns for women. When they drink, women absorb more alcohol into their blood than men. This means that women who drink the same amounts as men get drunk faster and are more likely to injure their health over time. Also, when a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol quickly reaches the fetus through her bloodstream. If the woman drinks while she is pregnant, it can harm the fetus.

As with any drug, it’s important to know the possible effects of alcohol before you choose to use it. This pamphlet gives you information about the effects of alcohol on women. It also tells how drinking during pregnancy can affect your fetus and provides a tool to assess whether drinking is a problem for you.