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Alcoholism & Addiction

The Effects of Alcohol on Pregnancy

Being pregnant and bringing life into the world is like a miracle. It is one of the most beautiful things a woman can experience. Using harmful substances can bring all the joy of pregnancy and babies crashing down. Alcohol can have devastating effects on a pregnancy and on the unborn fetus that you carry inside of you. If you are an alcoholic, abuse alcohol, or are a borderline heavy drinker, giving up booze when you are pregnant will not be easy. It is essential, though, if you hope to have a happy end to your pregnancy. Learn about all the harm you can do to your child and use it as inspiration for quitting drinking.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that women drink absolutely no alcohol during pregnancy. Regardless of what you have heard, according to the experts just one drink can adversely affect your unborn child. A fetus breaks down alcohol much more slowly than an adult does. This means that alcohol stays in your fetus longer and at higher levels than it does in your own body.

The most common reason for birth defects in the U.S. is exposure to alcohol while in the womb. This is 100 percent preventable. Remember that whatever you consume, your fetus also consumes. And she is much, much smaller than you!

  • As an infant, a child who was exposed to alcohol in the womb may grow too slowly and may have a developmental delay compared to other babies of the same age. They may have neurological or brain disorders. They can show early signs of mental retardation, unusual facial features, and the may be irritable.
  • By the time a child of a mother who drank during pregnancy is of school age, more problems may be observed. This child can show learning problems, such as difficulty learning to read. These kids may become frustrated easily and have poor social skills when dealing with other children.
  • As a teenager, a child exposed to alcohol during pregnancy may continue to have learning difficulties and may exhibit depression, anxiety, and antisocial behaviors.
  • Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause problems even before birth. It increases the risk of having a miscarriage and of having a premature birth. Stillbirths may be more likely in women who drink even a little alcohol during pregnancy.
  • Infants whose mothers drank during pregnancy may be born with fetal alcohol syndrome, or FAS. Babies with FAS are too small when they are born and struggle to catch up to their peers as they age. The facial characteristics of babies with FAS are distinctive and include small eyes, a thin and smooth upper lip, drooping eyelids, a small jaw, and a small head. These features can become more pronounced as the child becomes a toddler. Babies with FAS struggle to develop both physically and mentally and are likely to suffer from mental retardation, developmental disabilities, and neurological disorders for the rest of their lives. They often require special assistance.
  • Other problems that can arise in children exposed to alcohol in the womb include poor coordination, hyperactivity, deformed organs, heart murmur or other heart defects, a hole in the roof of the mouth, nearsightedness, missing or fused fingers and toes, deformed ribs, cruved spine, limited joint movements, and kidney problems.

It is important to understand that the above issues can be caused by any amount of drink. Clearly, the more a woman drinks during pregnancy, the more likely and the more severe the problems will be, but even a small amount can cause significant issues. You should also understand that these defects produced by alcohol exposure are not reversible. They cannot be cured.

Children who are born with any alcohol related problems cannot be cured, but treatments may help improve their circumstances. Early interventions can reduce the severity of symptoms and disabilities and can give a child a better chance of success in life. Occupational therapy, speech therapy, special education, and other interventions can greatly help a child that has been born with alcohol-caused disorders.

The importance of not drinking while pregnant cannot be overstated. For many women, this is tough, but very doable. For the addict, it may be nearly impossible. If you are pregnant and feel you cannot stop drinking, do whatever you can to find help. Talk to your doctor, check in to a recovery facility, join a 12-step group, or anything else that will support you and help you stop drinking at this critical time.

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