Is it ok to drink while pregnant?

By Wanda Crosby, R.N., C.C.E, VP of Medical Services

I’ve heard that you can’t drink while you are pregnant, why is that?
Alcohol is a teratogen which is a substance known to be harmful to human development. The alcohol that you drink passes through the placenta to the baby so when you drink your baby drinks as well. Since babies are much smaller, the alcohol breaks down more slowly in their little bodies. So that means that the alcohol remains in the baby’s blood much longer than the mother’s leading to possible irreversible harm to the baby’s development.

Is there a safe amount of alcohol I can have during my pregnancy?
Drinking any amount of alcohol at any time during your pregnancy can harm your baby’s developing brain and other organs. So no amount of alcohol is safe during your pregnancy.

What if I drank before I knew I was pregnant?
The best thing you can do now is to stop immediately. The sooner you quit the better for your baby. The risk of harm will decrease if you stop drinking.

How does alcohol affect my baby?
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy puts your child at risk of having these:

• Premature birth
• Brain damage and problems with growth and development
• Birth Defects – heart defects, visual problems
• Low birth weight
• Miscarriage
• Stillbirth
• Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

What is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?
This is the new name for what was once called fetal alcohol syndrome. It is a disorder that covers a wide range of symptoms, including intellectual and development disabilities. These are problems with how the brain works causing trouble with learning, communicating, taking care of oneself and getting along with others. Some of the physical problems include delays in physical development, microcephaly ( very small head), thin upper lip, flattening of the nasal bridge and a flattening of the midface.

Can the father’s drinking affect the baby during pregnancy.
Not during the pregnancy, but research is being done to find out if alcohol harms a man’s sperm before a woman becomes pregnant.

How can I stop drinking while I’m pregnant?
You should not begin drinking after the pregnancy ends if you are breastfeeding as the alcohol will pass through the breast milk to the baby.

Some tips to stop drinking are:
• Think about when you drink, plan to drink other things, like fruity drinks or water, use a fun straw to make it seem more fun
• Stay away from situations or places you would normally drink
• Get rid of all alcohol in your house, remove the temptation
• Tell family and friends you are not drinking so they can help hold you accountable
• Talk to your healthcare provider
• Join Alcoholics Anonymous
• Visit the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence website.

In conclusion, let’s just say any and all alcohol consumed while being pregnant can damage your growing baby. Please seek help to stop immediately, to give your baby the best possible chance of developing into a healthy baby.

Sources:
www.marchofdimes.org
http://americanpregnancy.org
http://www.cdc.gov

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