How Can Drinking During Pregnancy Be Fatal to My Child?

How Can Drinking During Pregnancy Be Fatal to My Child?

A new study says that foetal alcohol spectrum disease will also lead to psychological problems in your child. Here's why you should stop this indulgence right NOW!

Avoiding alcohol, smoking and other unhealthy habits during pregnancy should be a no-brainer. However, some mums still insist that ingesting it in small amounts should be safe enough. In this article, we will discuss the harmful effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Drinking Alcohol While Pregnant: Is It Safe?

According to reports, there is no known amount of alcohol that is safe to consume while pregnant. Even with a planned pregnancy, most women will be unaware they are pregnant for the first month or so, while they may continue to drink. Why take the risk when the risk is real?

Similarly, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, no amount of alcohol is safe to consume at any time during a pregnancy.

According to the organisation, drinking alcohol during pregnancy especially in the first trimester increases the chances of a child developing FASD by 12 times when compared to not drinking at all.

According to research, even if a pregnant woman only consumes one alcoholic beverage a day, there is an increased risk of infant growth retardation.

A pregnant woman who consumes alcohol passes it on to her unborn child, who does not develop a liver until later in the pregnancy. This means that the baby’s system cannot effectively eliminate the alcohol.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases your chances of miscarriage, premature birth, and a low birthweight baby. It can also have an effect on your baby after they are born.

How Does Drinking While Pregnant Affect The Mother?

food that cause miscarriage

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Alcohol’s effects may be stronger in mothers who are older, in poor health, or who smoke or use other substances.

Although alcohol can temporarily make a person feel happy, pleasant, and sociable, excessive or chronic long-term drinking can lead to alcohol dependence or addiction, which is officially referred to as an alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol has an effect on the body as well as the mind. Even moderate drinking may increase a person’s overall risk of death from a variety of causes, including several types of cancer and certain types of cardiovascular disease, according to research.

The effects of alcohol on cognitive and psychomotor functioning can have hazardous and potentially fatal physical consequences. Alcohol can also lower inhibitions, making you more likely to make hasty, irrational, or irresponsible decisions, which can lead to a loss of control, which can lead to a variety of consequences, including violence or accidents.

Chronic alcohol use is also linked to other cognitive and mental health issues, such as learning and memory problems, as well as exacerbating or causing serious mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

How Does Alcohol Harm Unborn Babies?

There is no safe time to consume alcohol while pregnant. Alcohol can harm your baby at any point during pregnancy, even before you realise you’re pregnant. You could be pregnant and not realise it for 4 to 6 weeks.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases your baby’s chances of developing the following issues:

  • Low birthweight

    This is when a baby weighs less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces at birth.

  • Brain damage and growth and development issues

  • Birth defects like heart defects, hearing impairment, or vision impairment.

    Birth defects are medical conditions that occur at birth. Birth defects alter the shape or function of one or more body parts. They can have an impact on overall health, how the body develops, and how the body functions.

  • Premature birth

    When your baby is born before the 37th week of pregnancy. Premature babies may experience serious health issues both at birth and later in life.

  • Miscarriage

    It is when a baby dies in the womb before the 20th week of pregnancy.

  • Stillbirth

    After 20 weeks of pregnancy, a baby dies in the womb.

  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (also called FASDs)

FASDs can cause a variety of issues in children, including intellectual and developmental disabilities. These are issues with how the brain functions that can make it difficult for a person to learn, communicate, take care of himself, or get along with others. They may also experience difficulties or delays in their physical development. FASDs are usually permanent. Binge drinking during pregnancy increases the likelihood of having a child with FASDs. Binge drinking occurs when you consume four or more drinks in two to three hours.

According to one study, drinking alcohol during pregnancy could expose your child to 428 diseases. These diseases are listed under Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disease (FASD), which are conditions that occur in a person whose mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy.

The study published in The Lancet Journal, identified 428 co-occurring disease conditions that affected nearly every system of the body including the central nervous system (brain), hearing, vision, blood circulation, heart, digestion and respiratory systems, among others.

Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy Can Lead to Babies’ Psychological Disorders

In a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, it has been found that children with FASD are also affected with psychological disorders including anxiety, depression, aggression and even diminished learning capacity.

The researchers made the following observation about three kinds of behaviours in children affected by FASD:

  • Internalising behaviours like anxiety, depression and withdrawal
  • Externalising behaviours like delinquency and aggression
  • Other problems including problems with social skills, attention and thought process

Researchers also stated that FASD is being increasingly recognised by health professionals as a cause of difficult behaviour in children. It has also highlighted the effects of regular and social drinking (of mothers) on children.

Let’s understand this problem and ways to recognise and deal with it.

What Is Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disease

How Can Drinking During Pregnancy Be Fatal to My Child?

Women who consume alcohol during pregnancy can give birth to children with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Diseases (FASD). It is an umbrella term for a series of disorders that are both physical and psychological. So far four types of FASD have been recognised. These are:

  • Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
  • Partial FAS
  • Alcohol-related birth defects
  • Alcohol-related psychological defects
  • Neurobehaviour disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure

While defects in all these categories differ in level from one person to the other, their overall affect is usually fatal. However, FAS is the most severe and causes serious damage to a person’s hearing, vision, lack of attention and ability to learn and communicate.

Causes of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disease

When an expecting mother consumes alcohol, some of it passes on from the placenta to the foetus. The baby’s body processes this alcohol differently from the way our body breaks it down. In fact, alcohol gets concentrated in the foetus, baring it from receiving essential nutrients.

foetal alcohol spectrum disease

Drinking during the first trimester is even more damaging because the baby’s organs haven’t been formed yet and needs all those nutrients

Remember that drinking alcohol during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester is even more damaging because that’s the time your baby actually needs all the nutrients. However, studies suggest that drinking during any stage of pregnancy can greatly affect your baby’s health in the future.

Small amounts of alcohol may still pose a problem.

Although the occasional drink or two is commonly regarded as harmless, the CDC warns that the risks may be too great, especially given that most women do not realise they are pregnant until they are four to six weeks along.

When women stop using birth control, they should stop drinking, according to the agency.

Aside from that, if you use mouthwash, you will ingest small amounts of alcohol from it. Hormonal changes will cause bad breath if you are pregnant. To keep your breath fresh, get some non-alcoholic mouthwash!

Symptoms: Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disease

Since foetal alcohol spectrum disease covers a wide range of disorders, there are many symptoms you might be able to spot.

  • The baby may have a small head
  • The baby may have wide-set eyes, a small ridge between his nose and upper lips, thin upper lip and abnormal facial features
  • The child may have below average weight and height
  • The child may be hyperactive
  • The child may lack focus, have a small attention span and poor coordination skills
  • The child may have delayed development in social skills, speech and thinking
  • The child may have poor learning abilities
  • The child may have physical problems including heart conditions, liver problems, kidney defects, and deformed limbs

This syndrome is for obvious reasons fatal to the child. But remember that the earlier it is diagnosed, the better treatment your child can get.

Treatment: Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disease

While foetal alcohol spectrum disease does not necessarily have a particular treatment, however, individual disorders can be treated by specialists. Special education or caring for their special needs could also help. For instance, speech therapists could help toddlers or special-care providers could help older children deal with everyday routines.

At home, your best chance to help your child is to create a loving and caring atmosphere. Children with FAS are likely to develop problems related to substance abuse and violence during the later part of their lives, especially if they were exposed to it during their early years.

As for medication, anti-depressants, neuroleptics and even anti-anxiety drugs can be recommended by doctors if need be.

But the best solution to deal with the entire problem is to stop consuming alcohol and smoking, especially before planning to conceive.


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How Can You Protect Your Baby From Alcohol While Pregnant?

If you do not drink alcohol while pregnant, your baby will not have FASDs or any other alcohol-related health problems. Don’t drink alcohol if you’re pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant.

Some pregnant women may consume alcohol and have healthy babies. Some women may consume very little alcohol while pregnant and have babies with serious health problems. Every pregnancy is unique. Alcohol may be more harmful to one baby than another. The best way to protect your baby from alcohol-related problems during pregnancy is to avoid drinking alcohol while pregnant.

If you do become pregnant, seek regular prenatal care (medical care you get during pregnancy). Inform your doctor if you need assistance quitting drinking.

How Can You Avoid Drinking Alcohol While Pregnant?

You might want to drink alcohol while pregnant. Alcohol is frequently consumed as part of social activities such as parties or sporting events. You might be accustomed to drinking a glass of wine with dinner or at the end of a long day. Giving up alcohol during pregnancy can be difficult.

Here are some suggestions to help you quit drinking:

  • Consider when you typically consume alcohol. Plan on drinking something else, such as fruity drinks or water. To make it appear more fun, use a fun straw or an umbrella in the glass.
  • Avoid situations or places where you normally drink, such as parties or bars.
  • Remove all alcoholic beverages from your home.
  • Inform your partner, as well as your friends and family, that you will not be drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Request their assistance and support.

If you need assistance quitting drinking, speak with your doctor about alcohol treatment programmes.

woman refusing alcohol

Image Source: iStock

Updates by Matt Doctor

Here at theAsianparent Singapore, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advice or medical treatment. theAsianparent Singapore is not responsible for those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend consulting your doctor for clearer information.

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