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The Dangers of Drinking During Pregnancy

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Use and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): • Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) estimates range from two to seven births per 1,000 births. • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) means that the infant displays some symptoms of FAS but doesn’t have enough symptoms to be diagnosed with the disorder. FASD is probably much more common and may range from 20 to 50 births per 1,000. • Despite these estimates, it is impossible to accurately estimate the prevalence of FASD due to numerous unreported cases. • The assessments of children at school age suggest an even higher estimate of FASD symptoms that may range from 2 percent to 5 percent of school-aged children.
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Alcohol Use During Pregnancy

Researchers and clinicians describe a teratogen as a substance that interrupts the process of normal development in the fetus during pregnancy. The developing fetus is sensitive to numerous teratogens, and varying exposures at specific levels of development can often affect different aspects of development. The development of the central nervous system in the fetus is extremely vulnerable to teratogens early in development.

Alcohol is an identified teratogen because it is readily passed from the mother to the child if the mother drinks alcohol when she is pregnant. Although there are numerous conflicting reports regarding when a pregnant woman can or cannot use alcohol, the CDC recommends that pregnant women do not drink alcohol at all.

Through numerous public statements, major health organizations, such as the National Institute of Health (NIH), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the CDC, advise that there is no known safe level of alcohol use for a pregnant woman. The specific type of alcoholic beverages does not provide any safeguard against this warning, despite some beliefs that a single glass of wine or beer is safe. These organizations advise that a woman who discovers she is pregnant should immediately refrain from any alcohol use, and any woman planning to get pregnant should immediately discontinue any use of alcoholic beverages. Any woman who discovers that she is pregnant and has used alcohol should immediately stop drinking and consult with her physician.

Impact of Alcohol on Pregnancy

Research findings from the above organizations have described numerous effects that can be associated with alcohol use in pregnant women. The alcohol that a pregnant woman consumes is directly transmitted to her baby through the umbilical cord, and this can result in significant issues, including miscarriage, stillbirth, and numerous potential birth defects if the child survives.

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The Child Is Not the Only One at Risk

While there is quite a bit of publicity regarding the effects on the developing child as a result of alcohol use by a pregnant woman, there are research studies that indicate potential issues for the mother; as a result of endangering the mother, the child is also at risk.

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