Why—and How—to Avoid Alcohol While Pregnant

Most of us are aware, by now, that drinking alcohol while carrying a child can be deeply harmful—even deadly. What some of us are unclear on is why that’s the case. What impact can alcohol consumption have on your baby—and what strategies can you take to abstain from drink over the nine months of your pregnancy?

Why Drinking While Pregnant is Dangerous

The simple fact is that when you drink while pregnant, your baby drinks too. The alcohol you consume travels through the placenta, reaching your baby through the umbilical cord. The amount of alcohol you have in your bloodstream is the same amount the baby has.

Of course, your body is able to manage that alcohol. That’s the liver’s role, to break down alcohol in the blood. The problem is, your baby’s body isn’t as capable. The liver isn’t yet developed enough to deal with alcohol, which is why alcohol is so much more harmful for your baby than it is for you.

The Effects of Alcohol on an Unborn Baby

The effects of alcohol are especially sad given that the baby is still developing—which puts the baby at risk for birth defects and for intrinsic problems both mentally and physically. Many of these symptoms exist under the broader diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, the most serious of which is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Some of the particular consequences can include:

  • Heart defects

  • Brain defects

  • Impaired vision or hearing

  • Premature birth

  • Miscarriage

  • Low birthweight

  • Intellectual problems and learning disabilities

  • Sleeping problems

  • Breastfeeding problems

  • Speech delays

Preventing Fetal Alcohol Defects

Of course, the only way to fully prevent these risks is to abstain from drinking while you are pregnant—something that can be easy enough for some moms but a challenge for others. One suggestion is to express any concerns or misgivings you have to your doctor, and to invest in regular prenatal care. A doctor can answer specific questions about whether an occasional glass of wine is right for you, etc.

It’s also important to enlist your partner’s support. Ask dad to be your support and encouragement, helping you make wise decisions about avoiding certain social situations, and perhaps—if he is willing—joining you in alcohol abstinence.

More generally, make sure to avoid scenarios in which you are usually tempted to drink—like parties and bars. If there are friends whose influence makes it hard for you to keep away from booze, it may be necessary to steer clear of those friends for now—for your baby’s sake.

And of course, if you know that your drinking is something of a struggle for you, you may even wish to consider checking into an alcohol rehab center—a great investment in the health of your baby, but also in your own ongoing wellness and sobriety.

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