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Article Summary

Pregnancy and Alcohol

If You Are Drinking, Baby Is Too

Some experts say moderate drinking during pregnancy is okay, but there are others who believe taking even one drink is like playing Russian Roulette with your baby's health.
One thing is clear, if you are pregnant and take a drink -- a glass of wine, a beer or a cocktail -- your unborn child takes the same drink. Whatever you eat or drink while pregnant goes directly through your bloodstream into the placenta.

If you're having a drink, baby is too.

For the unborn child, the alcohol interferes with his ability to get enough oxygen and nourishment for normal cell development in the brain and other body organs.

Research has shown that a developing fetus has very little tolerance for alcohol and infants born to mothers who drink during pregnancy can have serious problems.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a pattern of mental and physical defects which develops in some unborn babies when the mother drinks "too much" alcohol during pregnancy.

The problem is nobody is certain just how much "too much" is.
A baby born with FAS, or even with the lesser Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE), can have serious handicaps and therefore could require a lifetime of special care. There is even some research that indicates that women who plan to get pregnant should stop drinking before they even conceive.

Potential Problems During Pregnancy

For those who might think drinking during pregnancy is no big deal, here is a list of the potential problems their newborns could be facing as a result, according to Missouri Department of Mental Health, Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse:

  • Small body size and weight
  • Slower than normal development and failure to "catch up."
  • Deformed ribs and sternum
  • Curved spine and hip dislocations
  • Bent, fused, webbed, or missing fingers or toes
  • Limited movement of joints
  • Small head
  • Facial abnormalities
  • Small eye openings
  • Skin webbing between eyes and base of nose
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Nearsightedness
  • Failure of eyes to move in same direction
  • Short upturned nose
  • Sunken nasal bridge
  • Flat or absent groove between nose and upper lip
  • Thin upper lip
  • Opening in roof of mouth
  • Small jaw
  • Low-set or poorly formed ears
  • Organ deformities
  • Heart defects or heart murmurs
  • Genital malformations
  • Kidney and urinary defects
  • Central nervous system handicaps
  • Small brain
  • Faulty arrangement of brain cells and connective tissue
  • Mental retardation -- occasionally severe
  • Learning disabilities
  • Short attention span
  • Irritability in infancy
  • Hyperactivity in childhood
  • Poor body, hand, and finger coordination

Conclusion

No, it's not a pretty picture, but it is not intended to be. It's very serious. These effects are not temporary; they can cause a lifetime of physical and emotional pain --not to mention expense. FAS is a large price to pay for a few drinks during pregnancy.
If you are pregnant, don't take a chance with your baby's future; stop drinking immediately. If you have tried to stop and find that you just cannot seem to give it up, help and support are available.

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