Understanding the Effect of Alcohol during Pregnancy

April 5, 2011

in Alcohol Facts

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can have severe consequences to both the mother and the developing fetus. Alcohol passes straight through the placental barrier and do serious harm to a fetus during its development. For this reason, women who consume alcohol in heavy doses during pregnancy have an increased risk of a spontaneous abortion. Particularly when combined with other drugs, there is a significant increase in the likelihood to have a premature delivery, miscarriage or stillbirth.
Another possible result of consuming alcohol during pregnancy is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in the baby. Retardation of growth, dysfunctions in the central nervous system, facial deformities and mental retardation are common characteristics of FAS. A child born with FAS will often be below average size and weight and may have organ or skeletal deformities as well.
The effects of the alcohol on the developing fetus can vary based on the level of exposure, the mother’s general health and nutritional status and the timing of the exposure. The fetus is most vulnerable during the first trimester of pregnancy when the central nervous system is developing. The mother’s ability to metabolize alcohol effects how much the fetus will be effected by the alcohol being consumed. If the mother is able to metabolize the alcohol well, it will have less of a toxic effect on the fetus. There may be a genetic component to FAS as well, making some babies genetically more susceptible. A final factor is interactions with other drugs during pregnancy. Mixing alcohol with other drugs, even prescribed or over-the-counter drugs can increase the harmful effects to the baby.
Drinking alcohol while pregnant can also effect the mother’s ability to produce healthy breast milk for her baby. Alcohol alters the composition of the breast milk and may also block the hormones in the mother’s body that initiate and maintain lactation.

Previous post:

Next post: