Alcohol Effects on Your Pregnancy and Fetus

If you are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant anytime soon, best is to abstain yourself from alcohol. It is important to educate yourself regarding horrendous effect alcohol can have on your pregnancy and baby so you know why it is important to absolutely avoid alcohol throughout your pregnancy.

Consuming alcohol during pregnancy puts your baby at risk of developing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). FASD is the most prominent known cause of developmental abnormalities in children. According to estimation, up to 40,000 babies are born with FASD every year in the United States of America! [1]

If you consume alcohol during pregnancy, it means that so does your baby as alcohol is able to freely cross the placenta and enter your baby’s body.

Facts you need to know

  • Alcohol is a teratogen. Teratogen is any substance that interferes with the normal development of the baby in the womb causing abnormalities.
  • Alcohol is not only freely passed to your baby but it also tends to stay there for much longer. As babies are very small, even a small amount of alcohol is a lot for their tiny bodies. Their body is not able to metabolise and break down the alcohol as fast as adults can which leads to defective development.
  • There is no known safe limit of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The best bet is to avoid it at all.

Effects on the baby

Your baby is in a constant state of growth and development throughout the course of your pregnancy and any teratogen, administered at any stage is a risky business. Consuming alcohol during crucial stages of development can lead to life long and irreversible physical, mental and neurobehavioral abnormalities.

FASD represents a wide range of signs and symptoms occurring in a child exposed to alcohol in the womb with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome being the most serious manifestation. [2]

The signs and symptoms of FASD include:

  • Abnormal facial features
  • A head smaller than the normal size
  • A height shorter than average
  • Poor coordination
  • Low body weight
  • Poor memory
  • Cognitive problems
  • Difficulty in school
  • Hyperactivity
  • Difficulty with attention
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech delay
  • Language delay
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Lower IQ level
  • Vision problems
  • Hearing problems
  • Poor reasoning
  • Poor judgement skills
  • Sleep and sucking problems as a baby
  • Problem with systems such as kidneys, heart and bones [3]

Types of FASDs
Depending upon the signs and symptoms, FASDs are described using different terms

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: This is the most severe outcome of FASD with fetal death being the extreme. The signs and symptoms include abnormal facial features, growth retardation, CNS problems. The child may have significant difficulty learning, memory, communication, attention span, vision or hearing.
  • Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND): The signs of ARND include intellectual disabilities and problems with learning and behaviour.
  • Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD): This may cause problems with heart, kidneys, hearing, bones or a mixture of all of these.
  • Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (ND-PAE): In this case three types of problems are commonly occurred i-e thinking and memory, behavioural problems and difficulty in carrying out day to day activities such as bathing, dressing etc. [4]

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