ALCOHOL IN PREGNANCY: IS THERE A SAFE AMOUNT?

Bayo Ajibola

ALCOHOL IN PREGNANCY IS THERE A SAFE AMOUNT

Alcohol consumption in pregnancy has been an issue of concern.  Questions such as “What are the dangers of alcohol consumption in pregnancy; at what stage of the pregnancy can a pregnant woman stop drinking alcohol; how much alcohol is safe during pregnancy?” always arise whenever the topic is mentioned.

Alcohol consumption in pregnancy is highly dangerous for your unborn baby at all stages of your pregnancy.  It doesn’t matter whether you a heavy, regular or binge drinker; it is dangerous for your baby.  It can cause miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth. Moreover, alcohol consumption can cause a whole lifetime of problems for your unborn baby, from the womb to adulthood.  It can give rise to conditions known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs).  The symptoms of FASD include: facial abnormalities, growth problems, poor physical and emotional development, intellectual and behavioural disorders and damage to the nervous system. The most critical form of FASDs is a condition called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).

When you consume alcohol, it quickly passes from your blood through the placenta to your baby. The amount of alcohol in your bloodstream is, unfortunately, the same in your baby’s blood. While your liver is able to breakdown the alcohol molecules in your blood, your baby’s liver is unable to do so due to its immaturity.

Some studies recommend that pregnant women shouldn’t drink at all.  Others suggest that they shouldn’t drink during the first trimester of the pregnancy but thereafter they can limit themselves to one or two units a week.  With all these confusing recommendations, the safest option is to abstain from drinking while pregnant or planning to become pregnant because even studies haven’t been able to prove how safe the small amounts can be.

Bear in mind that every pregnancy is different. Some women may drink regularly in the course of their pregnancies and have healthy babies. Others may drink very little and have babies with critical health conditions. The sure way to achieve a healthy pregnancy and have a healthy baby is to abstain from alcohol. Even if you’d been drinking before realising you are pregnant, it is not too late to stop.

It is understandable that cutting out alcohol completely for nine month might be difficult for most people.  Nevertheless, remember that the sacrifice is for the health of your baby. So when you feel like a drink, instead of alcohol you can do the following:

¨      Drink non-alcoholic beer or wine, fruit juices or other non-alcoholic drinks.

¨      Distract yourself with a warm bath, soft music, gentle exercise or read.

¨      Get support from your partner. This he can do by giving up alcohol as well while you are pregnant.

¨      Talk to your doctor or midwife.

No mother would want to risk or trade the well-being and happiness of her child for a few bottles of booze.  Alcohol in pregnancy is much more harmful to your baby than to you. So cut it out completely.


Bayo Ajibola

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