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Alcohol Use in Pregnancy

By: Janna Michael, APRN

Have you heard that small amounts of alcohol in pregnancy are safe? Wrong, that is a myth. Many people believe that drinking some alcohol is okay, like a glass of wine with dinner, or an occasional beer, but that “hard” liquor is the only kind harmful to the developing baby. In fact, all kinds of alcohol are equally harmful to the developing baby. There is no level of drinking during pregnancy that is known to be safe. Obstetricians who counsel their patients to enjoy a glass of wine each evening are putting the baby at risk.

When you drink a lass of beer, wine or hard liquor, it goes into your bloodstream and passes to your baby. Your baby gets just as much alcohol as you. Alcohol is considered a teratogen (a substance that is toxic to the baby’s developing brain). Damage can occur in various regions of the brain and depends on which areas are developing at the time the alcohol is consumed. Since the brain is developing throughout the entire pregnancy, the baby’s brain is always vulnerable to damage from alcohol.

You may have heard of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) before. FAS is a set of mental and physical disorders that can include mental retardation, brain dysfunction, physical abnormalities, learning disabilities and psychological disorders that occur from prenatal exposure to alcohol. Only babies who were exposed to alcohol during a specific period of pregnancy will have the characteristic facial features of FAS. But the most serious characteristics of FAS are the invisible symptoms of neurologic damage. These symptoms usually present as behavior problems in children, but they are a result of permanent, unchanging damage to the brain and are not always within the child’s control.

It is recommended that women of childbearing age not drink any alcohol, because once the pregnancy test comes back positive, it could already be too late. Every drink is one too many during pregnancy. There are so many birth defects and syndromes that occur in pregnancy that women have no control over, but Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is 100% preventable. If you are having problems with alcohol and are pregnant, talk to your doctor now. If you aren’t pregnant and need help or are thinking of becoming pregnant, you can call the Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention at 501-686-9164.

 

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) Facts:

  • More than one-third of those with FAS have problems that require inpatient treatment for drugs and/or alcohol abuse at some time in their lives.
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is 100% preventable.
  • Once pregnancy test comes back positive, it could already be too late.
  • There is NO CURE for FAS.