Pregnancy Articles

No Level of Alcohol Consumption Safe During Pregnancy

The message for alcohol and pregnancy is clear: no amount is safe, when it comes to protecting the health of the mother and the unborn child. In the U.S., statistics indicate that one out of every eight expectant mothers uses alcohol, and one out of every 30 will participate in a binge drinking episode during pregnancy.

Referred to as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, or FASDs, the health problems resulting from a mother consuming alcohol during pregnancy are preventable but can span the child’s lifetime. Developmental and physical delays are possible, as well as heart problems, brain problems and damage to the baby’s organs. Many of the side effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy can affect the child well into their adult years, especially those that impact the way the baby looks and develops or interfere with behavior.

A myth expectant mothers may believe concerning alcohol is that a small amount will not cause harm, especially if she is past the first trimester. Experts such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say one can of beer contains an equivalent amount of alcohol as an average glass of wine, and that no amount of alcohol is considered safe for the child. There is also no “safe” time to consume alcohol, as its harmful effects can occur at any stage of the pregnancy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers resource materials and guides for physicians and patients designed to help prevent alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Unlike other disorders, there is no blood test that can clearly determine if a child has been exposed to alcohol during development. Symptoms may occur at birth or be seen later as the child encounters developmental delays or difficulties.

Symptoms of FASD can include facial irregularities or abnormalities, such as in the area between the upper lip and the nose, or lower than expected weight or height. Some children who have experienced damage related to alcohol use during pregnancy may have a smaller than normal head size or show difficulties paying attention or with activities related to coordination.

While there is no cure for damage caused by a mother’s exposure to alcohol during pregnancy, certain therapies and behavioral interventions may help the child develop more normally. Children who are diagnosed with FASD prior to turning six years old may have some additional protection from the long-term effects, as well as those who live in homes without violence.

Any woman who is planning to become pregnant or is pregnant should stop consuming all alcohol or seek immediate help from a physician, as each alcoholic beverage reaches the fetus through the placenta. The damage caused by alcohol to an unborn baby – often irreversible throughout the child’s life – is completely preventable. By abstaining from alcohol, an expectant mother can help ensure a healthy start to her child’s physical and mental development.

Methamphetamine and Pregnancy

In Hawaii, at least 50 percent of methamphetamine abusers and addicts are women. It’s believed that the drug’s side effects, which include reduced hunger and weight loss, helps explain why so many women abuse the drug.

Most women who use methamphetamine are in their child-bearing years, which can result in meth-affected pregnancies. Using methamphetamine during pregnancy poses a significant risk to the mother and fetus.

Some of the risks to the infant include premature or early delivery of the infant as well as deformities such as club foot and limb abnormalities. Pre-natal meth exposure causes babies to be born with low birth weight, and it can cause the infant to have a stroke or bleeding in the brain.

Babies exposed to meth may also suffer neurological problems such as intolerance to light and touch, tremors, muscle coordination problems, and sleep and irritability problems. There is also an increased risk for these babies to be born with HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

The developmental risks of infants exposed to meth include learning disabilities and growth and development delays. These babies also have higher rates of attention deficit and attention deficit hyperactive disorders. They also have higher rates for rage disorder and a greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome in infants—and even in children up to 7 years old.

Seeking treatment for drug addiction during a woman’s reproductive years can reduce the potential for harm to both the mother and child.