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The Dangers of Drinking When Pregnant

Friday, Apr 14, 2017
Dangers of Drinking When Pregnant

How does my body process alcohol?

Women and men react differently to alcohol, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. A chemical in the body that breaks down alcohol is less active in your body than it is in men's bodies. This means that more of the alcohol that you drink enters your bloodstream. Women typically weigh less than men and have less body water, so the alcohol that you drink is not diluted as quickly as the alcohol a man drinks. You will become intoxicated more quickly and have a higher blood alcohol level than a man who drinks the same amount.

How can drinking alcohol during pregnancy affect my baby?

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is a leading cause of birth defects. Alcohol can harm a fetus throughout pregnancy. This includes the first few weeks before you know you are pregnant and during the last weeks of pregnancy when the fetal brain is maturing. Even moderate alcohol use during pregnancy can cause lifelong problems with a child's learning and behavior. Any amount is risky for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. All types of alcohol are harmful, including beer and wine.

No amount of alcohol is safe during any stage of pregnancy

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a report in 2015 stating that no amount of alcohol should be considered safe during pregnancy.

Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause birth defects and premature birth. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) include physical birth defects, intellectual disabilities, learning and behavior problems and speech and language delays.

Drinking during early pregnancy is particularly risky. First-trimester drinking, compared to no drinking, results in 12 times the odds of giving birth to a child with FASDs, according to the AAP.

How can I prevent birth defects related to alcohol use?

Birth defects related to alcohol are 100% preventable by not drinking during pregnancy. Prevention involves these three steps:

  • If you do not want to get pregnant and you drink alcohol, use effective birth control.
  • If you are planning to become pregnant, do not drink.
  • If you are pregnant and have been drinking, stop. This will reduce the risk of harm to your baby.

What women can do

  • Talk to your health care provider about your plans for pregnancy
  • Stop drinking alcohol if you are trying to get pregnant or could get pregnant
  • Ask your partner, family and friends to support your choice of abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant
  • Ask your health care provider about resources for help if you cannot stop drinking on your own.

Doylestown Health Obstetrics and Gynecology

Doylestown Health's expert OB/GYN physicians and certified nurse midwives provide skilled and compassionate health care throughout all stages of a woman's life, from adolescence through menopause and adulthood. And for families welcoming new babies, the VIA Maternity Center offers labor, delivery and postpartum care in a state-of-the-art, family-centered facility — complete with a Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit staffed round-the-clock by CHOP neonatologists.

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