There is a lot of confusion around the -safe’ consumption of alcohol during pregnancy and most pregnant moms do not know what is considered to be -safe’ alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The fact is that there is no -safe’ limit and in order to avoid complications during and after the pregnancy, it is better to abstain from all alcohol while pregnant.
What are the risks of drinking while pregnant?
Alcohol is a toxin and this toxin is passed directly from mother to baby. When a woman drinks heavily during pregnancy, the baby is at a high risk of developing FAS or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Babies born with FAS are a lot smaller than healthy babies and unlike premature babies, FAS babies generally do not catch up on growth. Common features of the syndrome include small eyes and an abnormally thin upper lip. FAS babies generally have underdeveloped brains and hearts and they typically suffer from a form of mental disability.
As the infant grows, these children will have a short attention span, and a large number of FAS children (and eventually adults) will find it difficult to fit into society because they have severe behavioural problems and do not develop emotionally. Mothers who drink heavily during pregnancy are putting their unborn babies at an increased risk of developing FAS which cannot be cured and the affects of FAS will last throughout their lifetime. The syndrome is so serious that sufferers typically are not able to live an independent life.
ARBDs (or alcohol-related birth defects) is another risk that is associated with binge or heavy drinking during pregnancy. In the case of ARBDs the infant is born with several birth defects which affect their organ systems, like the kidneys, heart, liver, ears, eyes and bones. When mothers binge drink or drink heavily during the first trimester, the alcohol does irreversible damage to the baby’s developing systems.
Before research was conducted, most medical doctors argued that -one glass of a wine a week, would do no harm, however studies that were conducted in 2002 were able to expel this theory once and for all. The studies concluded that in cases where mothers who drank only one drink per week had children who were significantly shorter and leaner than children whose mothers abstained from alcohol during pregnancy. Drinking while pregnant has been proven to be linked to a many behavioural problems in the adolescent years, as well as a a host of emotional and even developmental problems. Children displayed poor social skills, mood swings and hyperactivity.
Drinking heavy amounts every now and then during pregnancy is just as dangerous and pregnant woman who binge drink are putting their unborn babies at a very high risk. A huge misconception is that drinking is relatively -safe’ after the first trimester, once the baby’s organs have developed, however this is not the case. Drinking during any stage of pregnancy is considered to be risky and dangerous to the fetus. During the third trimester the baby is growing and their brains are developing, binge drinking or heavy drink will have adverse affects on the baby’s growth and brain development. The medical community now believe that binge drinking is possibly worse than drinking the same amount of alcohol over an extended period of time and that mothers who binge drink are putting their unborn babies at a greater risk of developing foetal alcohol syndrome.
Is any amount of alcohol safe?
No! Doctors are unable to confirm whether drinking (even one glass per day or per week) is in fact safe. There are a few obstetricians who feel that a few drinks a week can do little or no harm, however, why choose to take the risk? By abstaining from alcohol, mothers will be afforded the peace of the mind that their habit is causing no harm to their baby. There have also been a lot of studies which show that one or two glasses of wine per week will do no harm to the unborn fetus – again is it worth the risk?
Other facts to bear in mind
Drinking alcohol while pregnant is even more risky for older women!
In addition to increasing the risk of behavioural and emotional problems, as well as FAS and ARBDs, consuming alcohol during pregnancy will also increase the threat of a miscarriage and stillbirth.
FAS and ARBDs is 100% preventable if pregnant mothers make the decision to abstain from all alcoholic drinks during pregnancy. The affects of FAS and ARBDs are irreversible and there is no treatment. Is that drink worth it?
Women, who feel that they have a drinking problem, are urged to seek professional help for the sake of their unborn child. The AA or Alcoholics Anonymous is able to give assistance to problem drinkers by offering support and guidance. For more about the help provided by the AA, visit the website www.aanonymous.org.za, or call 0861 435722.
The best gift a mother can give to their child is the chance to grow up healthy and by making a decision to go without alcohol during pregnancy – a mother is giving their child a gift that will last a lifetime.
– Kathy Baron