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Alcohol, drugs and smoking


Alcohol is not an effective contraceptive but drinking too much alcohol can lower sperm counts in men and reduces the ability of a woman to get pregnant. If a woman drinks to excess, her periods (when an egg is released into the womb) can stop completely.

To improve the chances of the woman getting pregnant, drink no more than 3-4 units a day if you are a man and 2-3 units a day if you are a woman. To put that in perspective, a large glass of wine (250ml) is 3 units,  an average strength pint of lager is 2 units and a single measure of spirits is 1 unit. Both men and women should have at least two days every week without alcohol.

If you are a woman seeking pregnancy, it may be safest to stop drinking altogether as you might not know straight away that you're pregnant.

Alcohol can harm the unborn child even in small amounts and even in the very early stages of pregnancy. In larger amounts, it can cause serious problems such as foetal alcohol syndrome that will affect the child for the rest of its life. It’s best to avoid alcohol when you are pregnant.

Partners of pregnant women should also examine their drinking habits – will you be able to get your partner to the hospital in an emergency if you've been drinking too much?


If you need help now about an alcohol-related issue or you just want to chat to someone about your drinking please contact Drinkline Helpline: 0800 7 314 314


Like alcohol, many illegal drugs lower sperm counts in men and fertility in women and may harm the unborn child or cause a miscarriage. 

Some legal drugs can also harm the baby. If you are taking any medication talk to your doctor or pharmacist who will be able to advise you if you need to stop taking them or not or may change your medication whilst you are pregnant. 


It is very important to stop smoking if you are pregnant or planning pregnancy. Smoking can harm the baby and increase the risk of complications during pregnancy or birth. Men should also stop smoking if their partner is pregnant because second-hand smoke is bad for unborn babies and young children.

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