For the Sake of Your Baby, Skip the Alcohol

When you’re pregnant, everything you drink goes to your baby. This includes any kind of alcohol, whether it is wine, beer, or mixed drinks. These drinks each have the same alcohol content per serving.

Alcohol crosses the placenta. There, it enters your baby's bloodstream. The same amount of alcohol that’s in your blood is also in your baby's blood.

Drinking any amount of alcohol during pregnancy can harm your growing baby. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) is a general term for birth defects that happen to a baby when the mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy.

Some children may be more prone to the effects of alcohol than others. It isn’t understood why this happens. But these effects can last a lifetime. Research shows that heavy regular drinking or binge drinking increase the risks to your baby.  Binge drinking is having 4 or more drinks at a time.

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most severe form of FASD. Babies with FAS can have wide range of health and behavioral issues. These can last throughout their lives.

For instance, a baby with FAS may grow more slowly than other children. He or she may have facial abnormalities and intellectual problems. These facial abnormalities often start in the first three to eight weeks of pregnancy. This is often before a woman knows that she’s pregnant.

Drinking alcohol at any time during pregnancy can lead to slow growth and central nervous system problems in your baby.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 800 to 8,000 babies may be born each year with FAS. The exact number isn’t known.

There is no cure for FAS. If treatment is started early, it can help a child with FAS. However, FAS can be prevented if a woman doesn’t drink any alcohol during pregnancy. 

What to do

FASDs only occur when a woman drinks during pregnancy. This problem doesn’t run in families.

The best advice? Don’t drink alcohol at all when you’re pregnant.  If you were drinking before you knew you were pregnant, stop now. If you want to get pregnant, you shouldn’t drink. Any alcohol you drink can harm your baby even before you know you’re pregnant.

Ask your healthcare provider any questions you have about drinking. Make sure you go to all of your prenatal checkups.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bowers, Nancy, RN, BSN, MPHFoley, Maryann, RN, BSN

Date Last Reviewed: 3/11/2016

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