Alcohol is a type of legal drug that people partake of for everything from relaxing to celebrating. While alcohol is something that people may freely imbibe under normal circumstances, expecting mothers should entirely avoid alcohol during pregnancy. Refraining from consuming alcoholic drinks is important, as even small amounts can be potentially damaging to a fetus.
Ideally, women should stop drinking alcohol at the time that they decide to try getting pregnant. To better understand this conservative view of alcohol in relation to pregnancy, mothers-to-be must have an understanding of the effects of alcohol during pregnancy.
The Effects of Alcohol on Your Unborn Baby
When a woman drinks alcohol during her pregnancy, she is causing her child to drink it as well. It effects the baby in a number of ways, one of which is raising its blood-alcohol levels to the same levels as the mother. Because the baby’s body and systems are much smaller than that of an adult, it cannot process the alcohol the same, and the effects of high blood-alcohol levels can be devastating. The damage of alcohol during pregnancy will not only affect the child as an infant but will last for their lifetime. Alcohol can also affect babies by causing birth defects, an infant’s premature birth, and a range of other problems.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
When a mother consumes alcohol during pregnancy and exposes the child to alcohol while still within the womb, they may suffer from developmental problems. These problems range from being born with a low birth weight to suffering from various degrees of mental retardation. This is what is known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which is a type of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. A child who is diagnosed with FAS will have documented deficits in growth, abnormalities of the central nervous system, and certain specific facial abnormalities. Other characteristic problems that often develop as an infant or child include delays in terms of growth, organ dysfunction, visual problems, decreased motor skills and coordination, problematic behavior, and difficulty with learning and memory, to name a few.
Drinking and Breastfeeding
There can be some confusion when it comes to alcohol consumption by women who choose to breastfeed following the birth of their babies. Unlike during pregnancy, a breastfeeding mother can drink alcohol; however, caution must still be exercised, as alcohol does get into the breast milk. For that reason, a nursing mother must ensure that any alcohol has had time to work itself out of her system prior to feeding her baby. Alternately, a woman can pump her breast milk and refrigerate it for feedings if she knows in advance that she will partake of an alcoholic beverage.
If a woman chooses to not express her milk, she can feed her baby before having the drink and should not breastfeed again until no less than two hours have passed from the last drink. The amount of alcohol that a woman drinks is also important and can affect the baby. According to certain studies, women should avoid drinking more than one drink a day, as it could potentially impair an infant’s development of motor skills.
How to Get Help for Consuming Alcohol During Pregnancy
If a pregnant woman has struggled with alcohol abuse in the past, help may be necessary to prevent her from drinking while pregnant. Depending on the severity of the drinking problem, a woman may choose to seek alcohol addiction treatment or alcoholism rehab. Meetings and support groups are also good ways for pregnant mothers to get the type of help and encouragement that they need from interaction with others who have suffered with alcohol abuse.
Some women may seek help through religious organizations that offer counseling services and/or by seeking non-professional support from family and friends. One of the first places that a person often seeks help with alcohol abuse or addiction is through their primary care physician, who can help direct them to the appropriate source of help needed by the individual.
There is a wealth of information available for people who want to learn more about alcohol, pregnancy, and how they can prevent people from drinking while pregnant. Alcohol, however, is not the only concern when it comes to drugs and pregnancy. Women should also refrain from smoking cigarettes and using any other form of substance or drug. People who are around women who have addictions to or abuse drugs, smoke, or otherwise engage in harmful behavior while pregnant should attempt to help and support them in stopping the destructive and dangerous behavior.