Drinking alcohol while pregnant can lead to irreparable damage of the growing fetus, and cause developmental problems that will affect the baby for the remainder of their lives. Everything a mother eats or drinks while she is pregnant will have lasting effects, and alcohol can cause many problems with the growth of the baby, leading to a range of disorders called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).
Alcohol quickly absorbs into the bloodstream then continues to circulate until it is broken down by the liver, which can take up to an hour for each glass of alcohol consumed. Since the alcohol passes through the placenta from the mother’s bloodstream, the baby is actually consuming just as much alcohol into its body.
There are many consequences to the baby if the mother drinks alcohol while pregnant, including the possibility of facial abnormalities, low birth weight, and problems with many vital organs including the heart. As the child grows, they may develop more problems such as hearing and visual impairment, learning disabilities, social problems, speech difficulties, poor memory and coordination.
The most severe disorder is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Babies who are born with this condition typically have a serious growth deficiency, among other physical defects. They will likely have a smaller head than other babies, and are not as long or heavy as expected. Heart defects and joint problems are common, and facial abnormalities such as narrow eyes, low bridge of the nose and a thin upper lip are typical.
Even though every pregnancy is different, there is no safe amount of alcohol that a woman can consume while pregnant. Many women worry that they had a few drinks before they knew they were pregnant, however as long as they stop as soon as they find out they are expecting, damage to the baby is not likely. It is the continued use of alcohol for the duration of the pregnancy that can cause problems to the baby – problems that can affect the child for the rest of their lives.