When a glass of wine can harm your baby

March 18, 2013 at 2:07 pm

From Seacoastonline.com

Drinking alcohol while pregnant is never a good idea and can cause serious and permanent harm to an unborn child.

Fetal alcohol syndrome, which causes physical and mental problems, is a risk that medical professionals say is not worth taking. No definitive data has ever been established on how much alcohol is safe for a pregnant mom.

“I think it’s pretty common knowledge now that pregnant women should not drink,” said Dr. Mark Chag, an OB/GYN at Harbour Health in Portsmouth. “Europeans are still tending to be more cavalier about it than we are. We used to believe a small amount was safe but now we know there is no safe threshold; so if you do not need to, don’t drink.”

Using or abusing alcohol during pregnancy can cause the same risks as using alcohol in general. However, it poses extra risks to the unborn baby. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, it easily passes across the placenta to the fetus and can harm the baby’s development.

“The placenta is more of a sieve than a barrier,” Chag said. “Alcohol crosses it and also their liver does not function to metabolize alcohol. The mother does most of the liver function for the baby, so in essence; the baby is drinking what the mother is drinking.”

The timing of alcohol use during pregnancy is also important. Alcohol use appears to be the most harmful during the first three months of pregnancy.

According to information provided by the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, an estimated 40,000 newborns each year are affected by FAS, or have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, with damage ranging from major to subtle.

The outcome for infants with fetal alcohol syndrome varies. Almost none of the babies have normal brain development. Chag said if a mother is suspected of drinking or has a known alcohol problem, he will talk to her and make sure she understands the risks she is taking. He will help her get help if needed.

“The goal is to get her off of alcohol as soon as possible,” he said. “Sometimes family members will call to advise us of a drinking problem.

“It’s not cut and dried and is often missed at birth unless the physicians are aware that the mother was drinking. Early intervention for the pregnant mom can help the baby so it is important to catch the risk as soon as possible.”

Infants and children with fetal alcohol syndrome have many different problems, which can be difficult to manage.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can result in miscarriage or stillbirth, or premature delivery. In infants, complications can include abnormal heart structure, behavior problems, infant death, and intellectual disability, problems in the structure of the head, eyes, nose, or mouth, poor growth before birth, slow growth and poor coordination after birth. A physical exam of the baby may show a heart murmur or other heart problems. As the baby grows, there may be signs of delayed mental development.

The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome offers the following information and recommendations:

  • Avoiding alcohol during pregnancy prevents fetal alcohol syndrome. Counseling can help women who have already had a child with fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • Sexually active women who drink heavily should use birth control and control their drinking behaviors, or stop using alcohol before trying to get pregnant.
  • There is no safe amount or type of alcohol during pregnancy. Any amount of alcohol, even if it’s just one glass of wine, passes from the mother to the baby.
  • Alcohol causes more harm than heroin or cocaine during pregnancy. The Institute of Medicine states, “Of all the substances of abuse (including cocaine, heroin and marijuana), alcohol produces by far the most serious neurobehavioral effects in the fetus.”
  • 1 in 100 babies have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, nearly the same rate as autism. FASD is more prevalent than Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, sudden infant death syndrome, cystic fibrosis and spina bifida combined. Alcohol use during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of birth defects, developmental disabilities and learning disabilities.

Entry filed under: Prevention.

Drinking during pregnancy and miscarriages 40 Years Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Back (and) To The Future Professional Summit now open for registration…

%d bloggers like this: