Booze and developing babies don’t mix

May 31, 2018 | by Lisa Chorzempa-Schainis, MD
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

If you are expecting a baby or trying to conceive, lay off the booze. Do we really need to say this?

While the vast majority of women in the U.S. stop drinking alcohol when they are pregnant, significant numbers of women continue to drink during pregnancy. Maybe they don’t understand the risks involved, or maybe they can’t give up alcohol.

Regardless, the experts have weighed in, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Surgeon General. They all say the same thing: a pregnant woman should not drink alcohol.

When you drink alcohol during pregnancy, so does your developing baby, says the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. In fact, your baby has the same blood alcohol concentration as you. Yet, she lacks the ability to process the alcohol.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) is the spectrum of birth defects caused by prenatal alcohol exposure. It may include a slight learning disability and/or physical abnormality to full-blown Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which can include severe learning disabilities, growth deficiencies, abnormal facial features, and central nervous system (brain) impairment.

Most babies negatively affected by alcohol exposure have no physical birth defects. Instead, these children have subtle problems with learning and behavior which may not be noticeable until a child is older, and it is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

What do you need to know?

No amount of alcohol can be considered safe during pregnancy. Research suggests that drinking even small amounts of alcohol while pregnant can increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

There isn’t a safe time to drink during pregnancy. Alcohol can damage a growing baby at any stage of pregnancy, including in the earliest weeks of pregnancy, and even before a woman knows that she is pregnant. A woman who is trying to get pregnant or who could get pregnant should avoid alcohol.  

There isn’t a safe type of alcohol. It makes no difference if the alcoholic drink consumed is beer, wine or liquor. Alcohol is a toxic substance to a developing baby. In fact, alcohol causes more damage to developing babies than many illicit drugs. 

Prenatal alcohol exposure causes problems that are lifelong. The good news: FASDs are completely preventable by avoiding alcohol use while pregnant.

Even if you know someone who drank a bit during pregnancy and whose child seems fine, why take a chance? Not every woman who drinks while pregnant will have a child with noticeable problems, just like not every smoker will develop lung cancer. The fact remains that alcohol is toxic to a developing baby.

If you have been drinking alcohol during your pregnancy, the earlier you stop, the better.

If you or someone you know is having difficulty abstaining from alcohol or drugs while pregnant, help is available. Get support from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

Learn more about how to stay healthy during pregnancy.

Find an OB-GYN at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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