The Risks of Drinking Alcohol during Pregnancy

By in Pregnancy & Labor on 06 May 2010

Most women are excited when they learn that they are pregnant, and much has been written about the need to take extra good care of your body at this time. Read on to find out more about the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

A woman may choose to drink for a variety of reasons. She may need to reduce stress in her life and feels a drink can help her relax. If she’s a teenager, she may also feel peer pressure to both drink and have sex. Unfortunately, some women are addicted to alcohol and that’s not a good thing when a woman finds out she’s expecting a child.

It’s unlikely a single alcoholic beverage is going to cause any birth defects in your unborn child, but that’s not the case when more alcohol is consumed. Binge drinking, which is relatively common among high school and college students, is drinking more than five drinks in one sitting. Frequent drinking is having seven or more drinks over the course of a week. Either of these instances could lead to a child developing birth defects.

What types of birth defects are possible if you choose to drink alcohol during pregnancy? Your unborn child basically has a glass of wine whenever you drink one. Alcohol passes through the placenta directly to the unborn child. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is the result of a mother’s heavy drinking during pregnancy.

It is possible that your unborn child will not be affected by FAS if you drink before your child is born, but do you want to take the risk? Doctors may not readily diagnose FAS because some of the birth defects aren’t apparent until the child begins to develop intellectually and behaviorally.

Children with FAS typically have a mental/neurologic defect. They may also be diagnosed as failing to thrive because they grow slower than other children. Their heads may also be smaller and they may experience slowed intellectual development.

It is also more likely that woman will miscarry or have a premature birth if she consistently drinks alcohol during pregnancy. The child may also have low birth weight and there may be complications during the birth. Babies born with FAS may need to be placed in an intensive care unit especially for newborns, which is often referred to as a NICU.

The risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy will greatly affect the unborn child; however, it can also adversely affect the mother. She may develop cirrhosis of the liver, kidney failure, cancer of the mouth, esophagus, and stomach, and the drinking may lead to brain damage.

Once you know the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, for both the baby and the mother, you may want to reconsider that next drink. We may want to relax and think a drink will help, but is it worth our health or that of our child?

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