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Home » Pregnancy

Can drinking while pregnant hurt my baby? Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Article / Review by on January 18, 2011 – 11:23 pmNo Comments

Alcohol & Pregnancy – Common Questions

Can drinking while pregnant hurt my baby?

If you drink when you’re pregnant, your baby drinks too. Alcohol passes right from your body to your baby’s body. The alcohol can hurt your baby even before you feel its effects. And it stays in your baby longer than in you.

Alcohol can damage a growing baby’s brain, organs and body. This damage can affect how your baby thinks, acts, looks and learns as a child and as an adult.

What drinks can hurt?

Any drink with alcohol can hurt your baby. Too many people think only “hard liquor” like rum, vodka, or whiskey can hurt your baby. They’re wrong! Any drink with alcohol in it can hurt your baby. Coolers, cider, wine, beer liqueurs all have the same kind of alcohol as “hard liquor”.

Cooking wine, mouthwash, cleaning products, and other liquids also have alcohol in them but were never meant to drink. And, if you drink them, they can hurt your baby too.

How many drinks will hurt?

Alcohol hurts a baby most when it is growing. Your baby grows inside you the whole time you are pregnant, so drinking at any time could hurt your baby. No one has found an amount of alcohol that is safe to drink when you are pregnant. Of course, the risk of damage increases the more you drink. So your safest choice is not to drink at all.

Does it matter when I drink?

The specific type of birth defect depends on the systems in the fetus developing at the time of alcohol exposure. Organ systems are most vulnerable to damage by alcohol during the period of most dynamic development. The damage seen in animal models roughly corresponds to weeks 3 to 8 in human pregnancy. However, if a woman drinks any time throughout her pregnancy, damage may occur. For example:
  • Heavy alcohol exposure during the period of craniofacial development will affect facial features. This roughly corresponds to the third and fourth weeks of human pregnancy.
  • The structure of the kidneys is most vulnerable around the sixth week of pregnancy.
  • Skeletal malformations can occur during weeks 3 to 8, such as incomplete growth of forelimbs and defects of the digits.
  • Heart defects can occur from alcohol exposure as early as weeks 3 to 4.

Vulnerability of the Fetus to Defects During Different Periods of Development

fetus alcohol stages

What is FAS, and other effects of drinking while pregnant?

FAS stands for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Doctors give this name to a specific group of serious problems a child has when a mother drank heavily while pregnant.

What happens to children born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

Their brain is permanently damaged, so they have trouble following simple instructions or remembering things.

  • They’re small and don’t grow normally.
  • Their faces may look different, such as small eyes and thin lips.
  • They’re often colicky babies and hyperactive children.
  • They might have trouble seeing, hearing or speaking.
  • They might have heart or kidney trouble.

When the children get older:

  • They often have trouble controlling how they act and get along with other people.
  • They have trouble paying attention and learning at school.
  • They struggle with depression and may have drug and alcohol problems.
  • They have trouble holding a job.
  • They often get into trouble with the law.

Will these problems go away?

No. They will last the child’s whole life.

But I drank last time I was pregnant, and my baby was fine

Alcohol damage doesn’t always show up before the child goes to school. And every pregnancy and every baby is different. Alcohol can hurt one baby more than another. It’s a fact that if you drink when you are pregnant you risk of causing seriousdamage to your baby.

What can I do?

To be completely safe, never drink when you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant.

Ask your friends and family to not serve you alcohol while you are pregnant. If you need help not to drink, make sure you ask. Your friends and family can help you quit drinking, or ask at your nearest health or treatment centre.

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