Drinking alcohol in pregnancy significantly increases the risks of a number of alcohol-related birth defects. To what extent does drinking while pregnant affect the unborn child?

Nearly everyone knows of the dangers of drinking alcohol in pregnancy. Despite the news articles circulating that claim a glass of red wine every so often has little effect, avoiding all alcohol is the best approach. Knowing that alcohol can severely impact the development of an unborn child, why would you ever drink?

Still, drinking alcohol while pregnant continues to be the number one cause of developmental disabilities and preventable birth defects in infants. One out of every 13 women report drinking during pregnancy. Of those women who continue to drink, one in five binge drink (more
than 4 drinks in one occasion) when they are pregnant.

But what exactly happens to the children of women who drink during pregnancy? How does alcohol in pregnancy affect the development of the baby? What are some of the potential health risks for these babies?

Continue reading to learn more about the effects of drinking alcohol in pregnancy and why avoiding alcohol is best choice for you and your child.

Alcohol in Pregnancy: Additional Statistics

You’ve likely read one of the many articles insisting that it’s okay to drink a glass of red wine while pregnant. Then you’ll read another on the same site begging expecting mothers to stay sober. With the promotion of such opposite messages in the same publications, how do mothers know what to do?

Little definitive research exists detailing a “safe” amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy. There are too many conflicting reports to say whether there is any safe amount to consume at all. Avoiding alcohol completely is the best solution.

Still, women drink during pregnancy and some even binge drink. Of those who reported binge drinking alcohol in pregnancy, on average these women binge drank:

  • Three times per month on average
  • Drink more than 6 drinks on each occasion

Women between 35 and 44 reported the highest rates of drinking while pregnant, or 14 percent. On the other hand, only 4.5 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 24 report drinking alcohol in pregnancy. Additionally, three times more unmarried women drink during pregnancy compared to their married counterparts.

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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Despite conflicting research surrounding safe amounts to drink while pregnant, one thing is for sure: heavily drinking alcohol in pregnancy leads to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). FASDs include a few different types of disorders directly related to mothers who consume alcohol while pregnant.

When a mother drinks alcohol in pregnancy, some of the alcohol passes to the baby through her umbilical cord. This basically means that when a mother drinks, the baby drinks, too. When a fetus is in its early developmental stages, any amount of alcohol impacts the process. Women who continue to drink heavily once they know they are pregnant put their baby at risk.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders covers a range of disorders caused by drinking alcohol while pregnant: fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders, and alcohol-related birth defects.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a condition seen in children whose mothers drank during pregnancy. The severity of fetal alcohol syndrome ranges depending on the amount of alcohol the developing child ingested. It results in varying levels of brain damage and growth problems. You can recognize FAS by looking for a few symptoms:

Physical Symptoms

  • Specific, distinct facial features including a thin upper lip, an upturned nose, small eyes, and smooth, flat skin between the upper lip and nose
  • Limb, joint, and finger deformities
  • Stunted or slowed physical growth before and after birth
  • Difficulties with vision or hearing
  • Small head and brain size
  • Heart defects
  • Kidney problems
  • Bone deficiencies

Brain and Central Nervous System Symptoms

  • Difficulties with balance and coordination
  • Learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and/or delayed development
  • Problems with memory
  • Impacted attention span or difficulties processing information
  • Troubles with reasoning and problem-solving
  • Lack of awareness or understanding of consequences for choices
  • Poor judgment skills
  • Rapid changes in mood
  • Hyperactivity
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Other Pregnancy Complications Caused by Drinking

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are not the only thing that happen as a result of drinking alcohol in pregnancy. Some pregnancies never make it to full term due to the consequences of drinking alcohol in pregnancy. Miscarriages and stillbirths commonly occur as a result of alcohol use while pregnant.

Eliminating Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

You can avoid the possibility of your child developing a FASD if you avoid drinking alcohol in pregnancy completely. A baby never exposed to alcohol has no risk of developing fetal alcohol syndrome. No matter what the latest headline may say, take the time away from
while your baby develops.

When you drink while pregnant, you likely set your child up for a difficult life ahead of them. There is no way to guarantee the extent of the problems they may develop until it is too late. If you’re pregnant and find you can’t stop drinking, seeking treatment for your alcohol use may help. Facilities like Hawaii Island Recovery offer programs to help you live life without alcohol.

If you want help to quit drinking, call our admissions office today at 877-721-3556 to find out how we can help.