5 Risks of Alcohol Use During Pregnancy
When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, the alcohol passes through the umbilical cord to the developing fetus. A number of serious health effects can result from this. Health care experts think that no amount of alcohol can be considered “safe” to drink during pregnancy and recommend avoiding alcohol while trying to become pregnant, while pregnant, while breast feeding, and even for those women who are sexually active and do not use contraception.
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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Consuming large amounts of alcohol is the cause of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). FAS is the collective name for physical and mental birth defects. Although the exact set of symptoms varies from baby to baby, these abnormalities can include delays in growth, developmental delays, skull and face malformations, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems.
Alcohol affects different women differently
According to WebMD, women have different levels of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol in their bodies. For women whose bodies break down alcohol quickly, drinking a small to moderate amount of alcohol is less risky than for those women for whom alcohol remains in their bodies for a long time. Since each pregnant woman is unlikely to know whether her body breaks down slowly or quickly, it’s difficult for medical professionals to say that any amount of alcohol is safe to consume during pregnancy.
A healthy pregnancy should go up to 37 weeks at minimum. Drinking alcohol puts a woman at risk for premature birth, which can put a baby at risk for serious health problems both at birth and later in the child’s life.
Miscarriage and stillbirth
Drinking alcohol places a pregnant woman at a higher risk for having a miscarriage before the 20th week of pregnancy or a stillborn child after the 20th week of pregnancy.
Alcohol can affect a baby’s mental health
According to one study, girls whose mothers drank alcohol during pregnancy are at a higher risk for developing a mental health disorder than girls whose mothers did not drink alcohol.
If you were in the habit of drinking alcohol before you became pregnant, there are a number of things you can do to develop alternative habits while pregnant:
- Plan to drink non-alcoholic drinks like sparkling waters and fruit juices in situations where you would normally drink alcoholic drinks.
- Get rid of the alcohol in your home, and stay away from places where you’ll be tempted to drink alcohol.
- Let your friends and family members know you choose not to drink while pregnant so they can support you.
- If needed, talk to your healthcare provider about treatment programs for problem alcohol use.