Drinking and Pregnancy

Women who drink during pregnancy put the health of their baby at serious risk. Though heavy drinking obviously raises the likelihood of incurring alcohol-related birth defects, even so-called moderate drinking can lead to problems.

In other words, when it comes to pregnancy, there’s no such thing as a “safe” amount of alcohol.

According to the March of Dimes, maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy has been associated with the following conditions in the child: mental retardation, learning disabilities, emotional problems, behavioral disorders, and defects involving the heart, face and other organs. Drinking alcohol while pregnant also increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, as well as the chances that the baby will be born at a dangerously low weight.

Among the most devastating results of drinking during pregnancy are conditions known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) – all of which are completely preventable by abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the following characteristics as being associated with FASDs:

  • Small size for gestational age or small stature in relation to peers
  • Facial abnormalities such as small eye openings
  • Poor coordination
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Learning disabilities
  • Developmental disabilities (including speech and language delays)
  • Mental retardation or low IQ
  • Problems with daily living
  • Poor reasoning and judgment skills
  • Sleep and sucking disturbances in infancy

Perhaps the most widely recognized detrimental results of drinking during pregnancy is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which is the leading preventable cause of birth defect and mental retardation. The CDC describes FAS in the following manner:

  • FAS [is] a lifelong condition that causes physical and mental disabilities. FAS is characterized by abnormal facial features, growth deficiencies, and central nervous system (CNS) problems.
  • People with FAS might have problems with learning, memory, attention span, communication, vision, hearing, or a combination of these. These problems often lead to difficulties in school and problems getting along with others.
  • FAS is a permanent condition. It affects every aspect of an individual’s life and the lives of his or her family.

If you are pregnant (or suspect you may be pregnant) it is imperative that you stop drinking alcohol immediately. If you find that you are incapable of quitting on your own, consult your health care provider, who will be able to connect you with the resources and support you need to end your dependence on alcohol and give both you and your baby the best possible chance at living healthy, happy, and productive lives.