Pregnancy and Alcohol
Pregnancy and alcohol — these concepts are incompatible. But, unfortunately, not all women regard so. That’s in vain. The fact that alcohol during pregnancy has serious consequences shall be of no doubt. Of its harmful effects on fetal development and the health of the unborn child there was written and said a lot, and the research still continue.
But many women believe that if they, being pregnant, do not abuse alcohol and drink it moderately, nothing wrong is going to happen.
Is there a difference between abuse and use of alcohol, if a woman is pregnant? Can she drink alcohol during pregnancy in small doses, and what should be the dose?
This issue had been worked by many doctors and scientists, and each time the response was new. Before, it was thought that a glass of good wine is even useful to a pregnant woman, especially red wine, which increases the hemoglobin and improves appetite. The norm definitely could not be set, as every organism reacts differently to alcohol. On average, one glass of wine in a week was considered normal for a pregnant woman.
But if you look inside a woman’s organism, the doubts arise, whether an alcohol could be useful to the fetus? It is proved that the child in the uterus is drinking the same that his mother does. Certainly not in the quantities that his mother does, but the half of drank by the mother has to be taken by the child. The recent data even say that alcohol fully penetrates through the placenta, so the child is not protected from it at all.
Alcohol in early pregnancy affects the fetus very detrimental. Imagine a tiny and defenseless creature, living and growing in the uterus. Are there any doubts that for him there is no safe dose of alcohol? 5 grams or 10 – there’s no difference. If alcohol does not kill a tiny creature, it will necessarily mutilate the fetus.
That’s why the doctors and scientists of our time took a tougher line towards the issue on acceptability of taking alcohol during pregnancy. They claim that there is no safe dose of alcohol to a pregnant woman. Nobody will tell you exactly which dose of wine or beer would be fatal to your unborn baby. And the entire responsibility for the tragedy will be held on you.
Another fresh statement of scientists is that there’s no difference between the types of alcoholic beverages taken in the period of pregnancy. If before the doctors forbade women to drink vodka, brandy, whiskey and liqueurs in this period and in the list of permitted drinks were wine and beer, the results of recent studies have shown that any alcohol is equally dangerous for posterity. So the answer to the question «Which alcohol can be drank during pregnancy?» is unequivocal – not a one!
Alcohol in the first days of pregnancy
Do not panic if you find out about the pregnancy soon after having been quite drunk at the party. In the first days after conception, when the embryo is still on the way to the uterus, alcohol is dangerous only because it can cause spontaneous abortion. But in that case you would not know that the pregnancy has happened at all.
The alcohol is not dangerous at the time when the placenta has not yet formed and while the growing fetus did not start to eat through it from you. Therefore, alcohol in the early pregnancy — namely, 2 weeks between the fertilized egg stage and missed menstruation — is safe. But if at that time you drank a lot of alcohol every day, you shall inform your doctor. If you didn’t – everything’s all right. But then it is worth to remember that after the embryo settles in the uterus and starts to grow, you need to forget about alcohol! In the early weeks of pregnancy, when the embryo has already settled and is developing, even scanty amounts of alcohol can lead to disease and deformity of not yet born child. This period of gestation is the most important and dangerous to the fetus.
Effect of alcohol on pregnancy
The following facts evidence how an alcohol affects pregnancy.
The limited use of alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of spontaneous abortion, and abuse of alcohol leads to fetal abnormalities. A child born by an alcoholic mother is very likely to get the fetal alcohol syndrome.
Most studies confirm the fact that the development of fetal alcohol syndrome could happen from 4-5 elementary doses of alcohol a day. Less severe fetal abnormalities arise as a result of even 2 doses per day (approximately 28 grams of alcohol).
Even rare and moderate consumption of alcohol by the pregnant woman can cause long-term changes in the child’s brain, the damage from which is not immediately noticeable.
After the alcohol gets in the blood of the fetus, it affects firstly the vascular system and the liver, also breaks down the development of brain structures that define mental activity.
The women who take alcohol have damaged eggs carrying genetic information. Therefore, alcohol is dangerous for posterity, even if it was used before pregnancy.
Fetal brain begins to form at 8-12 weeks of pregnancy, and its development continues until the birth. The consequences of drinking alcohol during pregnancy affect the state of the nerve cells of the child — they either become defective or get entirely destroyed. If adults have a lot of nerve cells, and some of them may be replaced by other, «free» ones, in our case, the small organism has very small compensatory abilities. That’s why in the future occur problems with studies, logical thinking and communication, that is, the difficulties in the areas of human activities that require fully functional nerve cells.
The child of parents who believe that they are drinking «civilized» has less weight and height, lags behind his peers whose parents do not drink. The children of drinking parents have weakened immune system and often get sick. But the worst thing is that they have an innate predisposition to alcoholism.
Another insidious property of alcohol is the procrastination of its negative impact on the fetus. Alcohol in the first month of pregnancy at the high dose may give immediate result in the form of abortion. But often the abnormal development of the child’s organs and body tissues appear only after birth, and sometimes in the later years.
For example, if a mother drank alcohol during pregnancy, the negative effects of taking alcohol can occur even during sexual development of the child. The clever and polite primary school pupil suddenly becomes lazy, stupid and arrogant teenager. This is because the mature hormones release all genetic «faults» caused by alcohol addiction of the mother.
Why exactly the alcohol is dangerous in the first months of pregnancy? Out of all toxic substances that lead to disorders of the physical and mental development of the offspring, alcohol is the most dangerous. It is rapidly absorbed into the blood and passes the placental barrier. Both the ethyl alcohol and its decay products are harmful to the fetus. Apart from the fact that alcohol affects the cells of the unborn child, from which are formed the organs and body tissues, it also infects cells in the nervous system, particularly in the brain. Alcohol also lowers the level of vitamins in the blood, disrupts metabolism and endocrine profile.
In case of chronic alcoholism during pregnancy, things are much worse. Women with this diagnosis have very high risk of having a child with abnormalities and defects. It can be: the abnormalities of the cardiovascular system; anomalies of development of extremities; craniofacial defects; intrauterine and postnatal growth retardation, weight gain and mental development.
In the second trimester of pregnancy the ethanol increases the risk of spontaneous abortion if a woman would drink more than 30 ml of alcohol twice a week. A pregnant woman weighing 70 kg in 1.5 hours will get the negative effect, caused by drinking 50 ml of red wine. If you cannot resist the desire to drink, do not be surprised with its consequences.
Fetal alcohol syndrome
In medicine, there is a concept of fetal alcohol syndrome (abbreviation FAS — Foetal Alcohol Syndrome). This condition is caused by the devastating effect of ethanol on the developing fetus in the womb during the critical periods of the process.
Signs of fetal alcohol syndrome:
- anomalies of the maxillofacial region: hypoplasia of the zygomatic arch and lower jaw; narrow eye slits; shortened upper lip or nose bridge;
- disorders of physical development of the child: longness or short stature, a small or too big weight, disproportionate body type;
- low birth weight;
- pathology of the nervous system development: microcephaly — underdevelopment of the brain or its parts, which leads to intellectual and neurological disorders; incomplete obliteration of spinal canal;
- developmental abnormalities of the heart, joints, and external genitalia.
Fetal alcohol syndrome is the main cause of congenital mental retardation. Children with this syndrome have continuous low intellect, their social adaptation is limited. The only good news is that in the future they can have healthy children if they abstain from alcohol in childbearing period. The same applies to mothers who had children with fetal alcohol syndrome. If during the next pregnancy they will not drink alcohol, they will be able to give birth to healthy children.
Alcohol and pregnancy planning
The problem of «drunken conception» unfortunately is very serious in our society. What’s more, who was drunk then — a mother or father, or both parents, and how much they drank — does not matter. If during the conception of the child someone of the parents was intoxicated with alcohol, a genetic mechanism for the development of organs and systems of the future child, and the consequences of this are not predictable. Unfortunately, the concept of «children of the Monday» has not lost its relevance today.
The trouble is also the fact that a woman finds out about her pregnancy a month after conception, and during this month she had been drinking alcohol and smoking. It turns out that the formation of the basis of organs of the future baby happened pye-eyed. Because of the absence of the placenta in early pregnancy the growing fetus receives all the alcohol, drank by the mother. Therefore, the couple who are planning to have children should exclude alcohol from their lives. A man should keep a complete veto on alcohol before pregnancy of his wife, and a woman — before the end of lactation process.
The arguments of the drinkers in favor of using alcohol during pregnancy are usually limited to stories that someone drank alcohol, and so did his wife, but the children were born and grew normal and smart. But nobody knows how smart would have been these children in case of sober lifestyle of their parents. In addition, it’s unlikely to calm anybody with a fact that epilepsy develops only in 1% of children born after a drunken conception, if his own child gets into this one percent.
When the topic of healthy offspring is raised, usually people talk about women. But we should not underestimate the father’s responsibility for the health of the offspring. If a man is planning to have children, he must give up alcohol for at least 4 months prior to conception. Only in this way the risk of the harmful effects of alcohol on heredity will be reduced to zero. Scientists have established a link between the alcoholism of a father and fetal development during pregnancy. They believe that the father’s abuse of alcohol can cause the fetal alcohol syndrome of the unborn child. Daily intake of even small amounts of alcohol in many cases reduces the spermatozoids’ motility and damages their hereditary structure. And this is reflected in the health of future children. In terms of the health of the offspring, there’s no safe dose for both women and men.
There’s very much evidence showing the absolute harm of alcohol on pregnancy, and one can choose between the unreasonable risk to the offspring, or complete rejection of alcohol – there’s no third option.