Drinking alcohol during pregnancy amounts to sharing your cocktail with your tiny, developing baby. The same level of alcohol you ingest is also ingested by your baby, says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
Why is alcohol consumption during pregnancy so bad for your baby? Mainly because alcohol consumption during pregnancy affects your baby's cognitive and physical development. The highest risk from alcohol to your developing baby is during the earliest stages of pregnancy, when baby's critical organs are forming and cells are dividing very rapidly. The more you drink during pregnancy, the greater health risks you and your baby are facing. Since there is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, the ACOG recommends eliminating all alcohol consumption during pregnancy to optimize your chances for a healthy baby.
According to ACOG, if you are a heavy drinker before, during, or after pregnancy, you face a slew of serious health problems such as:
- Vitamin and mineral deficiency
- Damage to your internal organs, including your brain, liver, and digestive system
- Increased risk of certain types of cancer
For baby, the effects of alcohol abuse include:
- Fetal alcohol syndrome, the most common cause of mental retardation in babies
- Physical defects
- Low birth weight
- Decreased attention span
And the evidence against drinking during pregnancy only continues to mount. It used to be believed that drinking moderate amounts (a drink a day) was relatively safe. But it's only recently been discovered that children of women who drank during pregnancy — even those who had as little as one drink a day — were experiencing developmental problems throughout their childhood and even into adolescence. A 2002 study by the University of Pittsburgh found that children of mothers who drank at least one drink a day during their first trimester weighed, on average, 16 pounds less at the age of 14 than those with no exposure to alcohol in the womb.
The message is clear: Pregnant women should not be drinking at all. If you're pregnant and find yourself unable to stop drinking, don't be ashamed to talk with your obstetrician. She can recommend ways for you to find the help and support you need to stop drinking for your sake, and for your precious baby's sake.
The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.