Alcohol and Pregnancy
The risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy
It is safest for women not to drink if they are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding. This is the advice given by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for parents to be.
It is not known yet how much alcohol if any is safe to drink when you are pregnant. However, it is known that the risk of damage to your baby increases the more you drink and that binge drinking is especially harmful. Therefore, mixing alcohol and pregnancy is discouraged and therefore drinking no alcohol is the safest choice for your unborn baby.
Pregnant women should never become intoxicated. This is because alcohol readily crosses from the mother’s blood stream into the baby’s blood stream. So when a mother to be drinks alcohol she is also passing on the effects of alcohol to her baby.
What if you drank before you knew you were pregnant?
If you drank small amounts of alcohol before you knew you were pregnant be reassured that the risk of harm to your baby is low. Once you know you are pregnant it is safest to stop drinking alcohol completely for the rest of your pregnancy and when you are breastfeeding. This will increase your baby’s chances of being healthy.
The Effects of Alcohol on Pregnancy
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a term used to describe a range of disabilities and a continuum of effects that may arise from prenatal alcohol exposure. It includes diagnoses such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS), Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorders (ARND) and Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD).
- The most severe adverse effect from chronic or intermittent heavy maternal alcohol drinking is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).
- Other potential adverse effects include spontaneous abortion, low birth weight and attention and learning difficulties. Studies have also demonstrated that the unborn baby’s central nervous system is vulnerable to alcohol.