Alcohol and Pregnancy Safety

You should already know that alcohol and pregnancy do not mix. If not, now is the time to learn. Drinking while pregnant is not generally recommended for those who are expecting.

However, you may have been told that a glass of red wine while pregnant is okay every once in awhile. While it may be okay for you to drink, it will still affect your baby regardless of how much you drink and when. That celebratory glass of wine could do more harm than good.

The Center for Disease Control and the Surgeon General of the United States say: “There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant. There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink and no safe kind of alcohol.” This means that you should avoid it at all costs, even if you think it will be okay with just a few sips.

Dangers of Drinking

Drinking alcohol can cause an array of problems for your baby. There is a spectrum of fetal alcohol disorders that a child can suffer from. Fetal alcohol syndrome is the most severe disorder that can occur because of alcohol consumption.

Fetal alcohol syndrome is characterized by poor growth, heart defects, damage to the central nervous system, and abnormal facial features. Other ways that drinking can harm your pregnancy are possible as well.

Tons of research has shown that alcohol is a neurotoxin when it comes to being in utero. This means that this toxic substance is just as dangerous as carbon monoxide and lead. Developing brain cells can also be damaged by the consumption of alcohol.

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
    • Lifelong condition
    • Anatomical defects
    • Central nervous system damage
    • Intellectual disability
    • Physical development delays
    • Hearing and vision problems
    • Behavioral problems
  • Other Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
    • Other FASDs have their own symptoms and the effects include both physical and behavioral problems in children, as well as adults who were born with it. The following are a few of the areas that someone with FASD may have difficulty with:
      • Learning and remembering
      • Understanding and following directions
      • Controlling emotions
      • Communicating and socializing
      • Daily life skills
      • Bathing and feeding
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Low birth weight
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech disabilities
  • Lowered attention span
  • Language difficulties
  • Hyperactivity
  • Aggressive or delinquent behavior
  • Health problems

If you have just discovered that you are pregnant and have been drinking previously, that is okay as long as you stop the moment that you learn about the pregnancy. There is nothing that you can do about the past, and it is unlikely that anything bad will happen if it has not already.

If you are still worried, talk to your doctor or midwife and they will be able to reassure you. Since no one knows just how much will affect your baby, it is better to be safe than sorry and completely stop drinking.

There is plenty of “alcohol free” beer and wine, but do not be fooled by the proclamation. Even these may have trace amounts of alcohol that can affect your pregnancy. Take it easy with these and look at the content to ensure that you are actually getting something that is alcohol free.

Myths

There are several myths when it comes to drinking while pregnant. The truth behind these myths is probably not quite what you would think.

  • A glass of red wine is fine every once in awhile. Your doctor said so.
    • Many doctors are not well educated when it comes to prenatal alcohol exposure. This may also be due to the discomfort of talking about something that may be uninteresting or difficult for the mother.
  • Other people that you know drank and their kids are okay.
    • Every pregnancy is different. Just because someone else had no problems does not mean that you will not.
  • No evidence exists with effects from just one drink.
    • This is false. There is evidence that major effects can occur with just one drink. Just one example is from Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Michal Charness. He says that the L1 cell adhesion molecule is critical for development, and has been shown to be majorly affected by one drink.
  • Wine helps to reduce your stress levels and can be healthy during pregnancy.
    • Regardless of the benefits, drinking any alcohol is dangerous.
  • Holidays and special occasions can be exceptions to having just a few sips.
    • Regardless of time or place, it is unsafe to drink alcohol when you are pregnant.
  • One glass is not enough to expose the developing baby to the alcohol.
    • Research shows that even a few sips can affect the developing baby.
  • Alcoholism is the only way to drink enough to cause any real damage.
    • Even a glass of wine a day can cause unwanted problems with the pregnancy.

Getting Help

If you are finding it hard to kick the habit, consulting someone else is a great thing. Get help as soon as you can to make sure that your baby will be as healthy as possible. You can get counseling and treatment at any time during gestation, but the sooner, the better.

Your local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous has meetings that you can go to and talk about what is going on. Solidarity when it comes to getting your life together is important.  Everyone there will have an understanding of what you are going through.

There are also facilities that you can go to that will help you help yourself. Local crisis hotlines for interventions can also be quite helpful. Regardless of what you need, they will be able to help you get through this tough time.

Overall, it is important to quit drinking as soon as you know that you are pregnant. If you do not, it is likely that something will go wrong with your pregnancy. This is not meant to scare you, only to make you aware that the danger is real.

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