Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause many problems for both you and your unborn baby. January is National Birth Defects Awareness Month, and it’s important to understand the dangers that can come from drinking alcohol while pregnant, as they include many types of birth defects.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Those who drink large amounts of alcohol during pregnancy risk the possibility of their baby being born with a condition called fetal alcohol syndrome which includes several different types of birth defects.
The symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome, according to the NLM, include:
- “Poor growth while the baby is in the womb and after birth” leading to underdevelopment
- Decreased muscle tone
- Poor concentration
- Delayed development
- Problems with speech, thinking, movement, or social skills
- There will be issues in three or more of these areas if it is truly a case of fetal alcohol syndrome.
- Heart defects
- Possible birth defects of the heart associated with fetal alcohol syndrome include ventricular septal defect (VSD) or atrial septal defect (ASD).
- Facial birth defects including:
- Narrow, small, wide set eyes “with large epicanthal folds”
- A small head
- A smooth groove in the upper lip as well as an extremely smooth and thin upper lip
- A small upper jaw
Fetal alcohol syndrome is an incurable disorder that is completely avoidable through not drinking alcohol during pregnancy. In order to avoid this issue entirely and to be completely safe, individuals who are pregnant are told not to drink during that time.
Other Birth Defects
There are other complications that can occur from drinking alcohol while pregnant. The NLM lists “cerebral palsy” and “premature delivery” among the complications that can occur in an infant who has been exposed to alcohol while in the womb. In some cases, premature delivery can lead to breathing problems, delays in development, vision problems, hearing impairment, and feeding difficulties (CDC). Although some of these issues can be solved and preterm delivery can happen as an effect of another type of problem, avoiding it as much as possible is the best solution.
In addition to these birth defects, unborn babies can die when a person drinks a large amount of alcohol during pregnancy. Stillbirth and miscarriages are common in pregnancies where a large intake of alcohol is involved. Again, these issues are preventable if the individual does not abuse alcohol. In most cases, patients are told during pregnancy that they should not drink at all because “drinking alcohol anytime during pregnancy can be harmful,” according to the NLM (NLM 2).
Because there is no known safe amount of alcohol which can be consumed during pregnancy without the possibility of any known birth defects or other issues, for the sake of both the child and the pregnant woman, it is encouraged that she not drink during this time. If someone who is pregnant is currently an alcoholic, there are treatments and more possibilities to help them stop drinking.
The NIAAA lists several treatment programs, and “your doctor or nurse can find a program to help you” avoid the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant.