Alcohol and pregnancy just don't gel! When you drink, so does your unborn baby. No amount of alcohol during pregnancy is safe – that goes for beer, wine, cooler, liquor and mixed drinks. Fortunately for many women, they find that they lose the taste for alcohol in pregnancy. To play it safe (so that alcohol does not affect the growing fetus) give up drinking once you know you are pregnant and throughout your pregnancy.
- No one is really sure what the safe level of alcohol is during pregnancy. However drinking more than 15 glasses of wine in a week (or its equivalent) can reduce baby's birthweight. Drinking more than 20 glasses of wine in a week or its equivalent can impair baby's intellectual development.
- Alcohol consumption affects adversely in that it causes your heart rate and that of your baby's to drop. This may lead to reduced circulation and deprive baby of important nutrients and oxygen.
- Alcohol in early pregnancy is most damaging. Even a single 'binge' can have profound effect (binging = 3 or more drinks in one session) during fetus's most vulnerable stage i.e. in the first 2-3 months of pregnancy.
- Many women do not even realize they are pregnant during the early stage – several weeks can go by (crucial period for fetal growth) and alcohol at this point could harm your developing baby. Makes sense to avoid alcohol for at least 3 months before trying to conceive.
- Different women have different metabolism. Some women are not able to break down alcohol into harmless substances and these harmful forms in turn crosses the placenta.
- Alcohol during pregnancy may affect child's attention span, IQ and learning ability.
- Low levels of alcohol may cause baby to have milder birth defects. FAE or fetal alcohol exposure can result from very little alcohol bringing us to the conclusion that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
- Many women indulge in social drinking while pregnant (the occasional glass of wine with dinner) and end up having normal babies. Eventually it is a personal choice and each woman must make her own decisions about drinking during her pregnancy.
FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome)
Very high levels of alcohol or chronic use of alcohol can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome or FAS. FAS is a form of mental retardation that has characteristic physical deformities. It can lead to behavior and learning problems in the baby. A baby born with FAS may have abnormal facial features (e.g. pixie ears), heart defects, low weight, club foot, intellectual impairment, etc. An FAS child may also have behavioral problems.
FAS is preventable - the safest thing you can do is to not consume any alcohol during pregnancy.