Have you been tempted to drink the occasional beer or glass of wine while pregnant? Are you contemplating participating in the token sip of Champagne for a holiday or New Year’s toast? The information regarding alcohol consumption and pregnancy is varied. You’ll read everything from sites in the UK that encourage a glass of beer or wine to relax every now and again to blogs that have a zero-tolerance policy. So, which perspective is right for you?
Alcohol and Pregnancy: Is There a Happy Medium?
Here is what we know: excessive alcohol consumption during your pregnancy can have disastrous and irreversible effects on your developing fetus and baby. Here is what we don’t know: which, if any, defects or medical complications in a fetus or newborn baby can be attributed to the occasional consumption of alcohol.
For this reason, most medical professionals will advise soon-to-be mothers to abstain. Should your pregnancy or baby develop unforeseen medical complications, it’s best not to wonder whether or not it could be related to any action on your part. According to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFS), the American Academy of Pediatrics states, “There is no safe amount of alcohol when a woman is pregnant. Research evidence shows that even drinking small amounts of alcohol while pregnant can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, or sudden infant death syndrome.”
There are also other complications in terms of determining how much is too much when it comes to alcohol consumption while pregnant.
Every woman is different
While you may have a drink and have a blood alcohol level well below the legal limit, your friend may have a sky-high limit after consuming the same amount. Why? Because the size, body type, fat tissue, and even the levels of enzymes that break alcohol down differ from woman to woman. There is no way to come up with a one-size-fits-all rule, and we always err on the side of safety when it comes to pregnant women and their babies.
Every fetus and baby is different
Just like every woman is different, so is every fetus and baby. Since mothers share blood with their babies, your blood alcohol level is the same as your fetus’s; if you have a blood-alcohol level of .05, so does the baby. Who wants that? Your baby is in the very important process of developing cell by cell, neuron by neuron, and organ by organ, so the safer and healthier their environment, the better.
Alcohol affects brain cells
While opinions differ on how light to moderate alcohol consumption may or may not affect a baby in utero, we do know that alcohol has a detrimental impact on brain cells. These effects are determined by various factors, including the length of time the brain has been exposed to alcohol. The longer the brain has been influenced by alcohol, the more likely one is to develop alcohol-related brain damage. Exposing your baby’s brain to alcohol now, considering that neurological development continues from conception to beyond birth, could contribute to problems down the road.
The reality is that whether or not you have that glass of wine or beer while pregnant is an entirely personal decision. However, we recommend opting out for the brief nine-month period (We know; it doesn’t always seem all that brief – but, in the big picture, it is!) that your baby is developing and at the mercy of your diet and lifestyle choices.
Do you have further questions about pregnancy and alcohol consumption? Contact the doctors at Women’s Health Associates for compassionate and confidential prenatal care and education.