Smoking and alcohol

Smoking and alcohol

Smoking when you're pregnant can seriously affect your health, as well as the health of your unborn baby. Drinking alcohol can also put your unborn baby at risk of developing serious birth defects.


Smoking while you're pregnant increases the chances of your baby being born prematurely (before week 37 of your pregnancy) or being born with a low birth weight. Smoking once your baby is born also increases the risk of cot death, or sudden infant death syndrome.

Quitting is the best thing you can do for your own and your baby's health. You can speak to your GP or midwife for more information, or call the NHS Smokefree Helpline on 0800 022 4332 for support and encouragement.


Switching to non-alcoholic drinks is really important when you’re pregnant. Your baby's liver isn't fully formed until the very last weeks of pregnancy, so it's safest to avoid alcohol during pregnancy.

Drinking during pregnancy increases the risk of your baby being born with problems such as facial deformities, emotional and learning difficulties, and poor growth.

The only way to avoid this risk completely is not to drink anything at all. That's why the NHS recommends that you avoid alcohol when you're pregnant. But if you do choose to drink, minimise the risk to your baby by limiting yourself to one or two units, once or twice a week and don't get drunk.

You can find out how many units there are in different types and brands of drinks with the Drinkaware unit calculator. But as a quick guide, one UK unit (10ml of alcohol) is equal to:

  • half a pint of beer, lager or cider at 3.5% alcohol by volume (ABV)
  • a single measure (25ml) of spirit, such as whisky, gin, rum or vodka at 40% ABV
  • half a standard (175ml) glass of wine at 11.5% ABV.

If you have difficulty cutting down, talk to your midwife or GP. Confidential help and support is available from local counselling services – look in the phone directory or call Drinkline on 0800 7 314 314.