9 Tips to Make Quitting Drinking Before Conception Easier
Almost everyone knows you should stop drinking during pregnancy—but not many talk about how hard it can be.
Since alcohol can be fatal to a baby, it’s best if you’re also sober while trying to conceive. If you’re someone who likes to party or who simply enjoys a glass of wine after a stressful day, quitting can be tough. In a culture where alcohol is used to celebrate, bond, relax and dine, it can feel like you’re the only one left out.
If you can relate, you’ll enjoy these 9 tips to make quitting drinking easier.
Note: If you have an addiction to alcohol, you should talk to your doctor about your treatment options. Attempts to get sober should be done under medical supervision. Since alcohol is physically addictive, when an addict quits cold-turkey, they may experience severe, even fatal, withdrawal symptoms.
When Should You Stop Drinking?
Many women start thinking about quitting drinking once they become pregnant. However, the earlier you can quit, the better.
Ideally, a woman should stop drinking when she’s trying to conceive. The first reason is that it may lead to easier conception. Research is unclear on how alcohol affects conception. Some studies show that while moderate drinking seems to have no effect, heavy drinkers could have a more difficult time. A 2004 study found that if a woman drank the week she conceived, spontaneous abortion was 2-3 times more likely.
While there’s no concrete answer, if you’re looking to conceive quickly, your safest bet is to stop drinking.
There’s also another reason: many women don’t know they’re pregnant until several weeks in. By this point, you may have unknowingly affected your baby’s health by consuming alcohol. To help you decide when to stop drinking, read our guide Alcohol and Conception: Should You Stop Drinking?
By the way, your partner isn’t off the hook. If he drinks before conceiving, it could also affect pregnancy outcomes. The same 2004 study showed that if males drank the week of baby-making, pregnancy loss was 2-4 times more likely.
If you’ve just found out you’re pregnant and have drank up until this point, late is better than never. Stop drinking immediately and talk to your doctor.
How to Quit Drinking Before Conception: 9 Tips
#1: Replace Old Habits
First, consider what role alcohol plays in your life. When, where and why do you drink?
For example, if you have a glass of wine or a beer every night after work to calm your stress, breaking that habit may be easier if you replace it with something else you find relaxing. Start by brainstorming other activities you could easily do after work that you’d enjoy that would also help with stress. Possibilities include:
- Taking a walk
- Baking a delicious dessert or meal
- Watching a movie
- Doing a craft
- Learning a new language
- Learning an instrument
- Planning a babymoon
- Writing daily letters to your baby-to-be
- Teaching your dog new tricks
- Put together your future baby shower registry
- Get started on your baby research
- Practice mindfulness
You can choose one habit to switch out for drinking—or you can select a different activity each night.
If you’re having a hard time quitting, ask yourself what alcohol gives you:
- A sense of relaxation
- Escape from boredom
- Escape from loneliness
- Makes you forget about your day
- Tasty drinks
Once you’ve identified what you like about drinking, choose another activity that fulfills that specific purpose.
#2 Tell Others That You’re Quitting
If you’re pregnant, most people will assume that you’ve stopped drinking. However, if you’re trying to conceive and trying to keep it a secret, others may question why you’re not drinking.
If your friends or family are asking why you’re passing up that glass of wine, you can tell them:
- You want to be the designated driver for the night.
- You’re trying to cut back.
- You’re taking a break for a while to focus on your priorities.
- You don’t like the feeling you get after a night of drinking.
- You’re quitting for health reasons.
- That you want to get pregnant one day, and you’re worried drinking will affect your fertility.
#3 Find Other Social Activities
If your weekends involve drinking with friends, you may feel like you’re missing out. Instead, suggest an activity. You can also suggest places that offer activities and alcohol so your friends can still drink. Ideas include:
- Paint nights in a restaurant
- Craft night at home
- A game of pool in a pub
- A pub that offers other activities, such as ping pong
- A board game night
#4 Change Your Environment
If you’re having a hard time not drinking, consider changing your environment. This could include the places or people you hang out with. For example, if going to a restaurant with friends makes it difficult for you to stay sober, stop going to restaurants with that group of friends.
If you can’t enjoy time with your friends without drinking, try developing a new social circle of people that don’t drink.
- Check Meetup.com for groups of sober people in your area
- Check Eventbride.com for sober events near you
- Start hanging out more with anyone you know who is pregnant or sober
- Attend prenatal classes when you’re pregnant
#5 Turn to Social Media for Support
This is an especially good tip if you don’t have a large sober network in real life.
You can also join online groups for sober people. Some of these people may be recovering alcoholics, while some may just enjoy the sober life more. Either way, constantly surrounding yourself with thoughts and ideas about sobriety can make you feel more normal and inspired if you’re having a tough time.
Connect with sober people on any pregnancy message board (since the mothers are likely to be sober):
If you’re struggling, others will be able to relate on sobriety message boards:
You can surround your social media life with sober inspiration, too:
- SoberMommies.com— Blog and resources for sober moms.
- Sober Grid— A free app that connects you with other sober people online or in your area.
- Follow sober Instagram accounts. You can also find these by using #Sober or #SoberLife.
- Like Facebook pages about sobriety, such as Hip Sobriety or Happy Clean & Sober
#6 What About Fake Alcohol? Can Pregnant Women Drink Non-Alcoholic Beer?
If you’re someone who enjoys the taste of beer or wine, buying the non-alcoholic version may be appealing. If you’re trying to conceive, switching out the real drink for the fake one is a good option.
However, when you become pregnant, you should try to eliminate non-alcoholic beer and wine as well. This is because non-alcoholic beers still contain some alcohol—sometimes more than the label states. A 2014 Canadian study found that some brands that claimed 0% alcohol actually contained up to 1.8%. Although this amount is still low, pregnant women are advised to avoid alcohol entirely
Researchers aren’t clear on exactly how much alcohol can harm a baby. It’s also not known whether some babies are more sensitive to its effects. We suggest playing it safe and sticking to truly alcohol-free beverages.
#7 Enjoy Mocktails
Being sober doesn’t have to mean boring drinks. If you enjoy tasty cocktails, try switching out your favorite for a version that doesn’t include alcohol.
- Many premade frozen mixes can be made without alcohol
- Many cocktails containing several ingredients are tasty without alcohol
- Search for some mocktail recipes
- Check out these refreshing summer mocktails
- If you’re sober over the holidays, check out the festive mocktails in this post
#8 Take Advantage of Restaurants/Bars with Alcohol-Free Drinks
Just because you’re not drinking doesn’t mean you need to avoid going out. To make it a more enjoyable experience, there are a couple things you can do:
- Research a restaurant/bar ahead of time that makes non-alcoholic drinks and suggest to your partner or friends that you go there instead. You can do this by simply looking at online menus ahead of time or by Googling “best mocktails in [your city].”
- Ask your server or bartender if they have any mocktails or which drinks can be made without alcohol.
- Research which bars in your area offer free drinks to designated drivers.
#9 Seek Help If You Need It
Whether you’re trying to conceive or are pregnant, if you’re having a hard time giving up alcohol, it’s okay to seek professional advice. You’re far from alone. In fact, one in every 12 adults suffers from alcohol abuse or dependence, according to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD).
Here are a few first steps you can take:
- Talk to your family doctor about what treatment he or she recommends.
- Attend an Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) meeting in your area.
- Find a psychotherapist in your area.
- Find a treatment facility near you.
- Try online therapy.
- If you’re not yet pregnant, you may find better success with treatments that aren’t abstinence-based, such as the Sinclair method. You’ll need a doctor to prescribe you the medication and monitor your progress. If it’s of interest, talk about it with your family doctor, a psychotherapist or a qualified online doctor.
What are your best tips for quitting alcohol when trying to conceive? Comment them below! If you have any friends who are trying to stop drinking, be sure to share this post with them, too!
P.S. Have you heard about fetal heartbeat monitors? These amazing at-home devices allow you to easily listen to your baby’s heartbeat—while she’s still inside the womb! Pretty amazing, right? You can check them out here.