When you have a lifestyle that includes drinking, it’s hard to bring that to an immediate stop when you discover that you are pregnant. However, research indicates that having even one drink a week can have an effect on an unborn child.
The danger is that the child breaks down alcohol much more slowly than the mother does. As a result, the child may end up with higher levels of alcohol in the bloodstream. When a mother drinks, alcohol travels through her bloodstream, crosses the placenta, and enters the bloodstream of the child.
However, research is still underway to determine the precise level of alcohol that is required to cause damage to a child’s growth prior to birth. Some studies indicate that moderate drinking up to one drink a day does not affect the child. Yet, there is evidence that show one drink can raise the odds of complications during and after pregnancy. For instance, drinking can increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and health problems with the child. One drink a day can increase the odds of a child having problems with learning, speech, attention span, communication, and hyperactivity.
Other studies point to the possibility of light drinking actually improves the health and growth of a fetus. Research indicates that drinking in the first trimester won’t affect fetal growth while drinking in the latter part of pregnancy will have the most damaging effects. In other words, current research and studies are contradictory and there is not any reliable data that points to the safest time or amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant. Of course, for any woman, for the safety of the child, abstaining from drinking is the best choice.
There is evidence that points to the destructive cycle of addiction having the most damage on an unborn child. When an addiction is severe and there is not only drinking but also the psychological issues that drive the addiction, an unborn child is likely to be born with significant impairment. When women drink significantly, such as suffering from alcoholism while they are pregnant, the child might develop a disease called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). It’s a disease that can cause physical abnormalities because of the alcohol in the system while the child is still in utero. A child might born with FAS is likely to have the following symptoms:
- smaller heads
- deformed facial features
- abnormal joints and limbs
- poor coordination
- problems with learning
- short memories
A child with FAS is often easy to spot. Typically, he or she will have deformities to the upper lip and other abnormal facial features. These physical conditions in children have been associated with increased risk of being abused and maltreated in life as well as exhibiting delinquent and violent behavior later in their childhood and adulthood.
If you’ve had a few drinks before finding out about being pregnant, there shouldn’t be a problem. Now that you know however, it’s best to leave alcohol out of your life at least until the child is born.
However, if you feel that you need help with your drinking and you are pregnant, it’s essential to speak with your doctor or mental health provider right away. You might also seek out a local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting so that you can surround yourself with others who don’t drink. Getting the right help while you’re pregnant is essential – it’s not only your life you’re endangering when you drink; it’s your child’s life too!
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