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Alcohol affects women differently than men. Women become more impaired than men do after drinking the same amount of alcohol, even when differences in body weight are taken into account. This is because women's bodies have less water than men's bodies. Because alcohol mixes with body water, a given amount of alcohol becomes more highly concentrated in a woman's body than in a man's. In other words, it would be like dropping the same amount of alcohol into a much smaller pail of water. That is why the recommended drinking limit for women is lower than for men.

In addition, chronic alcohol abuse takes a heavier physical toll on women than on men. Alcohol dependence and related medical problems, such as brain, heart, and liver damage, progress more rapidly in women than in men.

Is it safe to drink during pregnancy?

Drinking during pregnancy is dangerous. Alcohol can have a number of harmful effects on the baby. The baby can be born mentally retarded or with learning and behavioral problems that last a lifetime. We don't know exactly how much alcohol is required to cause these problems. We do know, however, that these alcohol-related birth defects are 100-percent preventable, simply by not drinking alcohol during pregnancy. The safest course for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant is not to drink alcohol at all.

Drinking during pregnancy can cause many medical problems, including increased risk of premature birth, low birth weight, miscarriage, and stillbirths. Some drugs can also cause birth defects and/or mental delays that result in permanent learning difficulties or behavior problems. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a preventable birth defect caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Children exposed to smoke in their environment have more problems with asthma, respiratory and ear infections and are at an increased risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (crib death).  If you smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs, please get help for yourself and your baby.

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Date of Last Update: 07/27/12