Alcohol during Pregnancy

Giving up drinking alcohol during pregnancy can have no exceptions or excuses. There are no safe levels or a better time for drinking in pregnancy. Know what fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is and why it is critical to keep alcohol away during pregnancy and before conception.

Last Updated: 22 October 2020

Alcohol during Pregnancy
Alcohol during Pregnancy

Pregnancy is that period of life when you need to be extra sensitive about your lifestyle, for you carry the great responsibility of nurturing a new life inside you. While you don’t have to be extra careful about every step you take forward, there are some strict no-no’s to be followed in pregnancy. One of the top no-no’s is drinking alcohol during pregnancy. And alcohol includes wine, beer and liquor!

If you are a habitual alcohol consumer and wondering how little at the least you can drink while pregnant, the bad news is that there isn’t any. If it surprises you of how even smaller amounts of alcohol during pregnancy can be harmful to your growing baby, read further to know its implications.

What happens when you drink alcohol?

The alcohol you drink doesn’t get digested in the stomach, like all other food. Most of it, around 80%, moves into your bloodstream quickly. If you drink alcohol on an empty stomach, all of it (100%) moves directly to the small intestine. If there is food left in the stomach when you drink, 20% of it is absorbed by the food and digested, and the rest enters your blood quickly.

Through your blood, the alcohol molecules travel to all parts of your body including brain, kidneys and liver. It is in liver that alcohol finally breaks down to release energy. This process in the liver can take a long time, almost an hour for one small dose of alcohol. Also, the efficiency of the process depends upon your genetic make-up, weight, age and metabolism.

In short, alcohol metabolism is most often a lot of hard work for the liver, whether you are pregnant or not pregnant.

Now what happens when you drink alcohol during pregnancy?

When you are pregnant, the alcohol you drink not only enters your bloodstream but also your baby’s blood through the placenta and umbilical cord. It means that it is now the responsibility of your baby’s liver to metabolize some portion of the alcohol which you consumed. However, the liver being one of the last organs to mature in fetal development during pregnancy, your baby’s growing liver is not developed enough to process alcohol, even in smaller amounts.

Also, alcohol molecules in your baby’s blood circulate freely to all the developing organs such as baby’s brain and kidneys.

As a result, your baby has to face health impairments and developmental abnormalities and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

What pregnancy complications does alcohol induce?

Drinking alcohol in the first few months of pregnancy can increase the risk of the following conditions:

·         Miscarriage

·         Premature birth and low weight

·         Still birth

Continued and higher concentrations of alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead to:

·         Learning disabilities in the baby as he or she grows

·         Behavioral problems

·         Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)

What is Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking alcohol during pregnancy causes fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Babies exposed to alcohol in the womb carry the risks of the following characteristics of FASD:

·         Abnormal facial features; most commonly, development of philtrum, a ridge between the nose and lips

·         Smaller than average head size, height and weight

·         Impaired body coordination

·         Behavioral and developmental issues such as delayed language and speech development, attention disorders and learning disabilities

How to help yourself from drinking alcohol in pregnancy?

·         Avoid social gatherings where you feel you might get tempted to drink alcohol

·         Make it apparent that you are pregnant and that you cannot have alcohol if persuaded by friends or colleagues in social situations.

·         Indulge in mind-body calming techniques like meditation, to seek relaxation

·         Ask for support to family and friends and de-addiction organizations, in extreme cases.

·         Remind yourself of the dangerous effects drinking can have on your baby.

Reference

 

Alcohol Use in Pregnancy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/alcohol-use.html

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