Why is Alcohol Dangerous in Pregnancy?

If you’ve ever been pregnant, chances are you’ve been told by someone at some point that drinking alcohol during pregnancy is dangerous. But why is this?

According to numerous health organizations, alcohol can cause serious health problems to a child in the womb. This is because when a pregnant woman consumes an alcoholic beverage, the alcohol in the mother’s blood passes through the umbilical cord to the baby. Just like it would for any other liquids or foods the mother consumes.

So why is drinking alcohol during pregnancy such a big deal?

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Adverse Effects of Drinking During Pregnancy

Drinking alcohol of any kind – including all beers, wines, and liquors – is unsafe for developing babies at every stage of pregnancy. It cause adverse effects, such as premature labor, miscarriage, and stillbirth. Further, prenatal alcohol exposure can also lead to a range of birth defects and developmental disabilities that can last a lifetime.

These disabilities are collectively referred to as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Children with FASDs might have the following characteristics and behaviors, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):

  • Small head size
  • Low birth weight
  • Have problems eating and sleeping
  • Have problems with vision and hearing
  • Have cognitive and academic problems and need special educational services
  • Have trouble following directions and accomplishing everyday tasks
  • Have difficulty paying attention and learning in school

Although some effects can be recognized early, other issues could become apparent later in the child’s life. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve the child’s health and behavior. There is no known cure for FASDs.

However, these disorders are completely preventable if you’re not drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

The bottom line is, there is simply no safe amount of alcohol consumption during any trimester of pregnancy. This is because it can cause a variety of adverse effects to the developing baby.

There is simply no safe amount of alcohol consumption during any trimester of pregnancy.

Therefore, medical organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, among many others, all recommend complete abstinence during pregnancy.

Polysubstance Use in Pregnancy

According to the CDC, research suggests that the use of more than one substance, also called polysubstance use, during pregnancy is common. In fact, in a recent national survey among pregnant women, CDC scientists found that about 10 percent had at least one alcoholic drink in the past 30 days.

Of those using alcohol, 40 percent also used other substances (typically tobacco and marijuana).

The effects of polysubstance use on a developing baby are not well known. There are limitations to data collection. However, use of other substances, such as opioids, cigarette smoking, and marijuana use, in addition to alcohol, have been linked to preterm birth, birth defects, and low birth weight, among many other detrimental effects.

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Some Helpful Tips

Experts advise to stop drinking alcohol when you start trying to get pregnant. This is because any women can become pregnant and not know it right away. In fact, it could be several weeks before you realize you’re pregnant. During that time, you would have unknowingly exposed your baby to alcohol.

But if you haven’t stopped drinking while trying to conceive, stop immediately once you find out that you are pregnant. Every day matters. The sooner you stop putting alcohol into your body, the better it is for your developing baby.

However, giving up alcohol during pregnancy can be difficult for some people. Therefore, in order to decrease temptation, eliminate all alcohol from your home. Instead, stock your pantry with non-alcoholic beverages.

Stay away from places or environments that could trigger you to drink, such as bars or parties where you know there will be alcohol. Finally, if you smoke, quit now. Cigarettes increase your craving to drink, and they are also dangerous for your developing baby.

Stay away from places or environments that could trigger you to drink, such as bars or parties where you know there will be alcohol.

During the nine months of your pregnancy, you and your baby’s health are what matter most. Drink plenty of water. Try to get as much rest and sleep as possible. Keep stress at bay by staying active.

By implementing a self-care regimen, you’ll be better equipped to get through the pregnancy process – both mentally and physically.

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