Drinking during pregnancy is a something of a grey area when it comes to prenatal health. There is no well-defined limit for expectant mothers to follow, and so it can be difficult to establish how much alcohol - if any - it's safe to consume while pregnant. While there are some guidelines to assist women in their decision, the final choice can only be decided by the individual, based on the facts provided by healthcare professionals:
- Alcohol is able to rapidly reach your baby through the placenta, which can lead to miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth.
- Drinking can also damage the baby's cells, impacting the developing organs and facial features.
- Another risk posed by alcohol is the development of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which can cause a number of issues from learning difficulties to birth defects.
- Foetal alcohol syndrome is the most severe of all alcohol-related disorders that can occur during pregnancy, causing babies to be born and remain small throughout their lives, often with facial defects. This can also effect muscle tone, coordination and behaviour, causing children to have learning and mobility difficulties throughout life.
- Binge Drinking - This refers to a large number of units, consumed over a short space of time. Even if you maintain a largely alcohol-free pregnancy, the occasional heavy-drinking session can still prove to be extremely harmful to your baby. In fact, evidence has shown that babies of binge drinkers are more at risk of developing FAS than the children of drinkers who consumed the same amount of units over a longer period of time.
- Drinking During the Last Trimester - This is the period when your baby is growing more and the brain is developing. For this reason, some experts have suggested that drinking during this period is related to learning difficulties and memory problems.
- Drinking Early in Pregnancy - Experts advise mothers not to consume alcohol during the first three months of pregnancy, due to the fact that so little is known about the potential damage this could cause the developing foetus.
- Heavy Drinking - Of all the factors, this is unsurprisingly the most damaging, due to the large amount of toxins being absorbed by mother and child. If you are a heavy drinker or have problems with alcohol, it is advised that you cut down before becoming pregnant, or seek help if you are already pregnant and are having trouble cutting down.
While some experts suggest that it is acceptable to drink one to two units a week without impacting the health of your baby, there is too substantial a divide in opinion to provide a definitive answer as to whether or not light drinking is bad for your unborn child. In conclusion, it is safe to say that the best course of action is to avoid the consumption of alcohol altogether, as it is far simpler to remove the risk instead of wondering whether you are doing the right thing.
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