Drinking, Pregnancy and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome

Drinking, Pregnancy and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome

When a woman finds out she is going to be a mother it can be one of the proudest, happiest moments of her life. It is a piece of momentous news, affecting different many aspects of her life and future including health, work, family, finances and mental health. It is also customary for women to alter their social life accordingly. Possibly not going out as often, stopping smoking cigarettes and abstaining from alcohol. Not doing the latter can lead to Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).

However, in certain cases, some women may continue to drink while pregnant, despite the inherent risks. Medical experts state consuming alcohol at any time while carrying a child can be potentially harmful to the baby. In fact, it is recommended that women do not drink at all during pregnancy. This is particularly relevant after premature and small births, or suffering a miscarriage or stillbirth. These have all have been linked to drinking when pregnant.

What Is Foetal Alcohol Syndrome?

The baby’s normal development in the womb is disrupted by alcohol and can affect the baby’s health at birth, susceptibility to illness in infancy, development in childhood as well as into teenage years and later life, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, (RCOG).

Pregnancy & alcohol
“the liver in the foetus is not completely formed, so it must depend on the mother’s liver to break down the alcohol. ”

What Happens If I drink During Preganancy?

Drinking alcohol while carrying a child may pose the risk of a condition known as foetal alcohol syndrome or FAS. Initially recognised in the United States in the early seventies, it can tragically have a detrimental impact on the development of a baby’s brain in the womb. The intensity and severity of the illness are said to be variant on the extent of the mother’s alcohol intake, how much they consumed and how long. It is caused by literally poisoning the baby during it’s maternal growth because the liver in the foetus is not completely formed, so it must depend on the mother’s liver to break down the alcohol.

How Does It Affect The Baby Physically?

Youngsters suffering the effects of foetal alcohol syndrome may experience difficulties with neurological development, resulting from harm to the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord. Children living with FAS may suffer abnormal growth and have facial features associated with the condition. It is a sad state of affairs that youngsters exposed to alcohol as a foetus may show physical side effects, along with neurological issues which may progress as a child leaves infancy. They may face different difficulties as they grow from childhood and reach adolescence and continuing onto adulthood.

VIDEO: Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder impacts you, but you don’t know it by Nora Boesem & TEDx

Can Drinking Alcohol Affect The Baby’s Brain?

Drinking whilst pregnant can affect the baby’s neurological functioning. FAS can cause learning difficulties, balance and coordination issues, numeracy and literacy issues as well as problems with hyperactivity and attention deficient disorder, alongside other symptoms. Children afflicted with foetal alcohol syndrome may also sometimes live with other health issues. Ranging from epilepsy to a weakened immune system, hormonal and hearing issues and kidney, liver and heart problems.

How Can We Prevent Foetal Alcohol Syndrome?

Scan of foetus and glass of wineIncredible as it may seem, many women do not fully appreciate the dangers of consuming alcohol while pregnant and how it can lead to FAS. The fact is, whenever a woman has something alcoholic to drink, the alcohol travels across the bloodstream from the placenta to the foetus.

However, the foetal liver is not completely formed, so it depends on the mother’s liver to break down alcohol. If you are a mother who drinks when pregnant, you should be aware that alcohol transfers from you to the foetus. The baby could then be deprived of the nutrients and oxygen it requires for organs and brain development. White brain matter – which facilitates how the brain processes information – can also be affected by alcohol. So if you consume alcohol while carrying a child, it can impact how the brain develops.

An unborn child will carry on developing its brain and spinal cord throughout the entire pregnancy. Therefore, if you drink anytime during the nine-month pregnancy, it could cause considerable damage.

“Pregnancy does not cure addiction. In fact, nothing does, so it’s important that newly-expectant mothers receive as much help as they can to overcome their dependence.”

Why Can’t I Stop Drinking Even When Pregnant?

Pregnant woman drinking wineThis is really the meat and bones of the matter. Newly-pregnant mothers are no different from any other addict or person with a substance misuse disorder.

Pregnancy does not cure addiction. In fact, nothing does, so it’s important that newly-expectant mothers receive as much help as they can to overcome their dependence. This can come in many forms, but ultimately alcohol addiction treatment is required and should be comprehensive. No one – NO ONE – can beat addiction alone, so it’s important the right support is put in place. A programme of recovery is often needed to prevent alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Talk to your GP about FAS and alcohol. There are a few support agencies listed below, or call us for advice.

Don’t Take The Risk

Some women may still be under the dangerous misconception that there is nothing wrong with having a drink while pregnant. However, when you consider the possibility of foetal alcohol syndrome and other conditions, then why take the risk?

Ultimately when pregnant, there seems there is no such thing as a harmless drink.

Sources and Resources about Foetal Alcohol Syndrome

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