April 15, 2010

The Risks of Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy

Most women are excited when they learn that they are pregnant, and much has been written about the need to take extra good care of your body at this time. Read on to find out more about the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

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A woman may choose to drink for a variety of reasons. She may need to reduce stress in her life and feels a drink can help her relax. If she’s a teenager, she may also feel peer pressure to both drink and have sex. Unfortunately, some women are addicted to alcohol and keep drinking before they realize they have gotten pregnant.

It’s unlikely a single alcoholic beverage is going to cause any birth defects in your unborn child, but that’s not the case when more alcohol is consumed.

Binge drinking, which is relatively common among high school and college students, is drinking more than five drinks in one sitting. Frequent drinking is having seven or more drinks over the course of a week.

Either of these instances could lead to a child developing birth defects.

What types of birth defects are possible if you choose to drink alcohol during pregnancy? Your unborn child basically has a glass of wine whenever you drink one. Alcohol passes through the placenta directly to the unborn child. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is the result of a mother’s heavy drinking during pregnancy.

Doctors may not readily diagnose FAS because some of the birth defects aren’t apparent until the child begins to develop intellectually and behaviorally.

Children with FAS typically have a mental/neurologic defect. They may also be diagnosed as failing to thrive because they grow slower than other children. Their heads may also be smaller and they may experience slowed intellectual development.

It is also more likely that woman will miscarry or have a premature birth if she consistently drinks alcohol during pregnancy. The child may also have low birth weight and there may be complications during the birth. Babies born with FAS may need to be placed in an intensive care unit especially for newborns, which is often referred to as a NICU.

The risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy will greatly affect the unborn child; however, it can also adversely affect the mother. She may develop cirrhosis of the liver, kidney failure, cancer of the mouth, esophagus, and stomach, and the drinking may lead to brain damage.

If there is any chance at all that you may be pregnant, think twice before having an alcoholic drink.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Kyle May

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Alexis Rodrigo

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