Thursday, October 7, 2010

No Level of Alcohol is Safe during Pregnancy

North Jersey

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a wide range of physical and mental birth defects.

The term fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) is used to describe the many problems associated with exposure to alcohol before birth.

Each year in the United States, up to 40,000 babies are born with FASDs .

Although many women are aware that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects, even light drinking may harm the fetus.

The fact is that no level of alcohol use during pregnancy has been proven safe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that pregnant women do not drink any alcohol — including beer, wine, wine coolers and liquor — throughout their pregnancy and while nursing.

In addition, women who may be pregnant, or those who are attempting to become pregnant, should not drink alcohol.

When a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol passes through the placenta to her fetus. In the fetus's immature body, alcohol is broken down much more slowly than in an adult's body.

Thus, the alcohol level of the baby's blood can be higher and remain elevated longer than that of the mother's blood, sometimes causing the baby to suffer lifelong damage.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause mild or severe FASDs. These can include mental retardation; learning, emotional and behavioral problems; and defects involving the heart, face and other organs.

The most severe of these effects is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), a combination of physical and mental birth defects.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the entirely preventable cause of mental retardation and the risk for miscarriage and premature birth and stillbirth.

These babies are abnormally small at birth and usually do not catch up on growth as they get older.

They have characteristic facial features, including small eyes, a thin upper lip and smooth skin in place of the normal groove between the nose and upper lip. Their organs, especially the heart, may not form properly.

Many also have a small brain that is abnormally formed. Most have some degree of mental disability.

Many have poor coordination, a short attention span, and emotional and behavioral problems.

The effects of FAS and other FASDs last a lifetime.

Even if not mentally retarded, adolescents and adults with FAS and other FASDs are at risk for psychological and behavioral problems. They often find it difficult to keep a job and live independently.

The CDC estimates that about three times the number of babies born with FAS are born with some, but not all, of the features of FAS.

These FASDs are referred to as alcohol-related birth defects (ARBDs) and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders (ARNDs).

ARBD describes physical birth defects that can occur in many organ systems, including the heart, liver, kidneys, eyes, ears and bones.

The term ARND describes learning and behavioral problems associated with prenatal exposure to alcohol, which can include learning disabilities; poor attention span; memory and problem solving; speech and language delays; hyperactivity; psychological disorders and poor school performance. They do not have the characteristic facial features associated with FAS.

In general, ARBDs are more likely to result from drinking alcohol during the first trimester, when organs are forming rapidly.

Drinking at any stage of pregnancy can affect the brain, resulting in ARNDs, and can also affect growth.

Because there currently is no way to predict which babies will be damaged by alcohol, the safest course is not to drink alcohol at all during pregnancy and to avoid heavy drinking during childbearing years — because about 50 percent of pregnancies are unplanned.

All women who are considering becoming pregnant should stop drinking alcohol.

Heavy drinkers should avoid pregnancy until they believe they can abstain from alcohol throughout pregnancy.

Frankly, if a woman can't stay away from alcohol once she knows she is pregnant, she may well have a drinking problem which must be addressed.

No comments:

Post a Comment