For expecting mothers, the consumption of alcohol opens the door to a number of serious health implications for the fetus and developing child. Fetal alcohol exposure has been shown to cause a number of developmental issues and birth defects. Among the more serious conditions caused by drinking while pregnant include fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a result of compromised development. When the fetus is exposed to alcohol in the womb, brain and organ development are adversely affected. This leads to stunted mental and psychological growth, and can also result in physical defects. Individuals with FAS often require specialized care throughout their lives.
Alcohol is a toxin, and thus causes immediate problems when a developing fetus is exposed to it. Alcohol consumption also complicates pregnancies, and often leads to premature births, low birth weight, spontaneous abortions, and miscarriages. Babies who are carried to term often experience severe developmental issues during childhood, and may lack basic physical coordination skills. Facial defects are quite common as well.
Alcohol consumption during pregnancy does not only contribute to low birth weight, but can lead to permanently stunted growth throughout the child’s lifetime. Features like smaller eyes and thinner upper lips are common. Stunted growth of the heart while in utero often results in lifelong heart problems as well.
Behavioral and emotional effects are prominent throughout the lives of affected children. Shortened attention spans and limited intellectual capacity are commonly seen. Emotional and behavioral problems well into adulthood are common, as many affected individuals cannot hold down a job or maintain a healthy relationship. Criminal behavior is common, and lifelong reliance on the care of others is quite typical.
Is One Drink Okay?
Experts disagree when it comes to what amount of alcohol is safe to consume while pregnant, so it’s best to refrain altogether, as the potential risks are just too great to justify even the odd glass of red wine here and there. Complete abstinence is especially recommended for individuals who have had previous issues with excessive or binge drinking, as one indiscretion taken to extremes could literally ruin the life of the unborn child. The old saying about an ounce of prevention hold true here; and expecting mothers should be adamant about protecting the health of their babies.
When the risks are considered it becomes very difficult to justify even casual drinking during pregnancy. The developing fetus is extremely sensitive to its environment, and as experts have yet to come to a consensus as to how much alcohol is too much, rolling the dice and taking your chances is wildly irresponsible behavior. Doing everything in your power to ensure the health of your baby is the only sane response here. Is having a couple drinks worth risking the long term health of your child?
The Smart Approach
FASD and FAS can both be prevented by simply refraining from drinking alcohol during your pregnancy. Furthermore, women who are trying to conceive, or who may become pregnant should abstain from alcohol as well.