Pregnancy and Alcohol

October 8, 2009 at 3:55 am 4 comments

no alcohol

What are the hazards of drinking alcohol during pregnancy?
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause FASDs, with effects that range from mild to severe. These effects include mental retardation; learning, emotional and behavioral problems; and defects involving the heart, face and other organs. The most severe of these effects is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), a combination of physical and mental birth defects.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk for miscarriage and premature birth (before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy). Studies also suggest that drinking during pregnancy may contribute to stillbirth. A 2008 Danish study found that women who binge drink three or more times during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy had a 56 percent greater risk for stillbirth than women who did not binge drink. Another 2008 study found that women who had five or more drinks a week were 70 percent more likely to have a stillborn baby than non-drinking women.

Pretty much to sum it all up, drinking while being pregnant is definately not a good thing and will in no way ever be a possible benefit for your baby, but more of a hazard.

How much alcohol is too much during pregnancy?
No level of drinking alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the patterns of drinking that place a baby at greatest risk for FASDs are binge drinking and drinking seven or more drinks per week. However, FASDs can occur in babies of women who drink less.

Researchers are taking a closer look at the more subtle effects of moderate and light drinking during pregnancy.

  • A 2002 study found that 14-year-old children whose mothers drank as little as one drink a week were significantly shorter and leaner and had a smaller head circumference (a possible indicator of brain size) than children of women who did not drink at all.
  • A 2001 study found that 6- and 7-year-old children of mothers who had as little as one drink a week during pregnancy were more likely than children of non-drinkers to have behavior problems, such as aggressive and delinquent behaviors. These researchers found that children whose mothers drank any alcohol during pregnancy were more than three times as likely as unexposed children to demonstrate delinquent behaviors.
  • A 2007 study suggested that female children of women who drank less than one drink a week were more likely to have behavioral and emotional problems at 4 and 8 years of age. The study also suggested similar effects in boys, but at higher levels of drinking.
  • Other studies report behavioral and learning problems in children exposed to moderate drinking during pregnancy, including attention and memory problems, hyperactivity, impulsivity, poor social and communication skills, psychiatric problems (including mood disorders) and alcohol and drug use.

If a pregnant woman has one or two drinks before she realizes she is pregnant, can it harm the baby?
It is unlikely that the occasional drink a woman takes before she realizes she is pregnant will harm her baby. The baby’s brain and other organs begin developing around the third week of pregnancy, however, and are vulnerable to damage in these early weeks. Because no amount of alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy, a woman should stop drinking immediately if she even suspects she could be pregnant, and she should not drink alcohol if she is trying to become pregnant.

What is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)?
FAS is one of the most common known causes of mental retardation. It is the only cause that is entirely preventable. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that between 1,000 and 6,000 babies in the United States are born yearly with FAS.

Babies with FAS are abnormally small at birth and usually do not catch up on growth as they get older. They have characteristic facial features, including small eyes, a thin upper lip and smooth skin in place of the normal groove between the nose and upper lip. Their organs, especially the heart, may not form properly. Many babies with FAS also have a brain that is small and abnormally formed. Most have some degree of mental disability. Many have poor coordination, a short attention span and emotional and behavioral problems.

The effects of FAS and other FASDs last a lifetime. Even if not mentally retarded, adolescents and adults with FAS and other FASDs are at risk for psychological and behavioral problems and criminal behavior. They often find it difficult to keep a job and live independently.

Is it safe to drink alcohol while breastfeeding?
Small amounts of alcohol do get into breastmilk and are passed on to the baby. One study found that breastfed babies of women who had one or more drinks a day were a little slower in acquiring motor skills (such as crawling and walking) than babies who had not been exposed to alcohol. Large amounts of alcohol may interfere with ejection of milk from the breast.

For these reasons, the March of Dimes recommends that women not drink alcohol while they are breastfeeding. Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that breastfeeding mothers not drink alcohol. However, according to the AAP, an occasional alcoholic drink probably doesn’t hurt the baby, but a mother who has a drink should wait at least 2 hours before breastfeeding her baby.


Entry filed under: drinking while pregnant.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. charinaroy  |  October 11, 2009 at 4:08 am

    In my recent TV watching I’ve actually seen something that I’ve been pretty happy about. Whenever someone is pregant in a movie or a TV show, their co-actor/another character mentions in some shape or form that the woman pregnant should not be drinking alcohol. What a great way to educate people!

    • 2. haydenbybee  |  October 11, 2009 at 7:20 am

      i’m so happy you told me that! I am now going to be watching for that. Thank you!

  • 3. Shannon  |  October 12, 2009 at 1:43 am

    Great website, the more people are educated the more they will learn and take better care of themselves

  • 4. laurafernsten  |  November 10, 2009 at 4:05 am

    I really liked this youtube video ! I actually had a friend who was pregnant with her first child and for some reason she just started craving alcohol. So she had to hide her wine and alcohol bottles all over the house. But still, I commend her for never taking a drink while she was pregnant. As soon as she had her daughter that craving went away. Weird.


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