Drinking during pregnancy is dangerous and can cause untold damage to an unborn child. There is not enough research about the effects of alcohol during pregnancy. It is a five that anyone trying to get pregnant or anyone in the first trimester (12 weeks) should avoid alcohol entirely. Alcohol can decrease the chances of getting pregnant in the first place and increases the chance of miscarriage. During the first 12 weeks after conception most systems of the unborn babies body are developed and formed. Alcohol can cause deformations, failure to thrive and other growth problems. If someone has had drink before finding out the pregnant as long as this has not been sustained use or regular binge drinking fountain they should be hopefully ok.
Alcohol crosses at the centre by the mother’s blood stream into the babies. Having no filtering system of their own unborn child is subject to the effects of the alcohol. The body is a marvellous thing and the odd drink before becoming aware you are pregnant should not cause any damage. You should still mention this to your doctor or health visitor so any extra screening required can be arranged.
After the first trimester guidelines suggest that 1-2 to units once or twice a week is the maximum intake of alcohol an expectant mother should have. Again there is not enough research on the effects of alcohol on an unborn child and mothers to be should air on the side of caution.
Drinking in pregnancy can cause placental abruption where the placenta which is essential for maintaining healthy growth and development of the child can start to come away from the wall of the womb causing miscarriage or premature birth. This can also result in internal bleeding which is very dangerous for both mother and child. There are no benefits to drinking in pregnancy that I outweigh that unknown risks and it should always be avoided.
Drinking during pregnancy is associated with premature birth and low birth weight. Children born to heavy drinkers are also at risk from Foetal Alcohol Syndrome which can be fatal. Children born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome may also experience withdrawal as alcohol provided through their mother’s blood stream is withdrawn. In severe cases the infants may have to be treated with medication to reduce the distressing effects and symptoms of withdrawal. A baby with alcohol-related problems will require a longer stay in a neonatal unit after birth which can be distressing for both parent and child.
If you are pregnant or plan on becoming so, then you should look to seek help immediately. If you find that you cannot do so then you should seek professional help immediately. The risks to yourself and the unborn child can be vast and in order to have a healthy pregnancy alcohol should be avoided.
If you have a problem with drinking and are pregnant you should be entirely honest with your health professional. Whether this is your GP or midwife they are the best people to help. Suddenly stopping drinking especially in pregnancy can cause miscarriage or damage to your long-term health. The body needs time to adjust to an alcohol free state and medical supervision may be required. There are both private and NHS options available that can help an expectant mother stop drinking safely.
Kelly Aplin is a UK based drug and alcohol addiction expert.