One For Mommy, One For Baby
There is some controversy around the idea that alcohol during pregnancy is okay. Some experts agree and some say that taking a drink during pregnancy is dangerous for the baby. Regardless which side of the argument you find yourself on, the fact remains that if you are pregnant and you drink-whether it is wine, beer, or a cocktail-your baby drinks with you.
When You Drink, Baby Drinks, Too
Whatever you eat or drink during pregnancy goes through your bloodstream and directly into the placenta, which nourishes the baby. In the baby's immature body, alcohol breaks down very slowly, unlike it does in an adult's body. Consequently, the level of alcohol remains higher for a longer period in the baby's body than it does in the mother's blood. The result can be lifelong damage to the unborn baby.
Even A Little Alcohol Can Create Big Risks
Many women are aware of the damage heavy alcohol drinking can do to their unborn babies. However, many do not realize that moderate or even light drinking can also have devastating effects on the fetus. Often women do not know they are pregnant for a couple of months which means that, if they drink, their baby is at high risk for mental and/or physical defects from the alcohol. That is why it is recommended that a woman who is planning to become pregnant stop drinking before she even tries to conceive.
If a woman discovers she is pregnant and has been drinking, it is important for her to stop immediately for her baby's sake. While an occasional drink before discovering a pregnancy may not harm a baby, it is during the first month that the baby's organs and brain begin developing and they are very susceptible to damage in these early weeks.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) is a term that is used to describe the wide range of physical and mental birth defects and problems associated with alcohol exposure before birth. The effects of FASDs range from mild to severe and include mental retardation; learning, emotional and behavioral problems; and defects involving the heart, face and other organs. The most severe effect is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) which is a combination of mental and physical defects.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
FAS is a common cause of mental retardation and the only cause that is entirely preventable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that between 1,000 and 6,000 babies are born with FAS every year. These babies are tiny at birth, abnormally so, and they do not catch up as they grow. There are characteristic facial features consistent with FAS including small eyes, a thin upper lip and smooth skin in place of the normal groove between the nose and upper lip. Organs, especially the heart, may not be properly formed and they have some level of mental disability. Emotional and behavioral problems, poor coordination and a short attention span are all frequently found in these children.
The CDC also estimates that three times the number of babies born with FAS are born with some, not necessarily all, of the features of a baby born with FAS. These FASDs are referred to as alcohol-related birth defects (ARBDs) and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders (ARNDs).
No level of alcohol consumption has proven safe during pregnancy.
If you have a friend who wants to have children but drinks too much alcohol, you can find ways to help an alcoholic like your friend by reading numerous online resources that discuss alcohol and fertility.