Alcohol During Pregnancy

by Anai Rhoads

Alcohol is quickly absorbed into your bloodstream. The alcohol circulates in the blood until it is completely broken down by the liver. It may take an hour or more for the liver to break down the alcohol for one glass of wine/beer. If you are pregnant, the alcohol in your bloodstream passes through the placenta to the baby, the baby absorbs equal amounts as you do.

What's the harm in drinking?

A woman who drinks alcohol during pregnancy risks giving birth to an abnormal child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). A child born with FAS has a pattern of mental and physical defects.

Growth deficiency is one of the most common physical defects of FAS. Most infants with FAS have a smaller head, are shorter than normal infants, weigh less. They typically have low nasal bridges, narrow eyes, a thinner upper lip. Most of the FAS babies have heart and joint abnormalities.

Everything you eat and drink while you are pregnant affects your baby. If you drink alcohol, it can hurt your baby's growth. Your baby may have physical and behavioural problems that can last for the rest of his or her life. Children born with the most serious problems caused by alcohol have fetal alcohol syndrome. Here is a list of possible consequences due to drinking during pregnancy:

  • Underweight at birth
  • Problems eating and sleeping
  • Difficulty seeing
  • Impaired hearing
  • Trouble following directions and learning
  • Short attention span
  • Trouble getting along with others
  • Lack control of their behaviour
  • May need special teachers and schools

Is any kind of alcohol safe to drink during pregnancy?

Drinking any kind of alcohol when you are pregnant can hurt your baby. A glass of wine, a can of beer, and a mixed drink all have about the same amount of alcohol.

I drank during my last pregnancy and my baby was fine

Every pregnancy is different. Drinking alcohol may hurt one baby more than another. You could have one healthy baby, and then a baby with medical problems. You can not predict what will happen. Choosing to not drink will give your baby a fighting chance against illness.

Are these symptoms temporary?

No. These problems will last for a child's whole life. People with severe problems may not be able to take care of themselves as adults. This is a very serious condition.

I am pregnant and have been drinking.

First step...stop drinking. Alcohol can begin to affect a baby even when you are only 1 or 2 months pregnant.

I have a problem with alcohol. Where do I turn for help?

You can get help from a doctor, nurse, social worker, pastor, or clinics and programs near you.

For confidential information, you can contact:

Organization Address
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
http://www.alcoholicsanonymous.org
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
http://www.niaaa.nih.gov
6000 Executive Boulevard, Suite 409
Bethesda, MD 20892-7003
(301) 443-3860
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
http://www.ncadd.org
12 West 21st Street
New York, NY 10010
(800) 622-2255
National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
http://www.nofas.org
1819 H Street, NW, Suite 750
Washington, DC 20006
(800) 66-NOFAS

Anai Rhoads is a medical and political researcher/writer with a particular interest in the sanctions on Iraq and the wider effect of racism's influence in the Middle East. A vegan since 2000, she is a dedicated supporter of activities which promote animal and human rights. Originally from Greece, she now resides in Virginia, USA with her husband and their two dogs, Bijou and Eva.

Copyright © Anai Rhoads. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.