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Alcohol and Drug Abuse During Pregnancy

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Is alcohol and drug abuse during pregnancy ever a "good" thing? According to the research evidence, the answer is "no."

The Hazards of Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy

While it is common knowledge that it is unsafe to abuse any kind of drugs during pregnancy, many people wonder if it is safe to drink alcohol during pregnancy.

In a word, the answer is "no." Why? Because drinking during pregnancy can cause a number of dangerous consequences and harmful effects on the baby.

For instance, drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause mental retardation and/or behavioral and learning problems that can last a lifetime.

The exact amount of alcohol that is required to cause these problems is not known.

What is known, however, is that these alcohol-related birth defects are 100% avoidable, simply by abstaining from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. In short, the safest course for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant is abstaining from drinking alcohol.

As stated above, drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to mental and physical birth defects. Sadly, every year in the United States, more than 40,000 babies are born with some degree of alcohol-related impairment.

Even though many, if not most, women understand that excessive drinking during pregnancy can lead to birth defects, many woman, apparently, are unaware or do not comprehend that restrained or even light drinking can seriously impair or damage the unborn fetus.

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Pregnancy, Alcohol, and the March of Dimes

Since no level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been proven safe, the March of Dimes strongly urges pregnant women to abstain from all alcohol, including wine, beer, wine coolers, and hard liquor during their entire pregnancy AND also while nursing.

Moreover, due to the fact that some women remain unaware of their pregnancy, sometimes for 2 or more months, women who are pregnant or those who are trying to become pregnant should abstain from alcoholic beverages, according to the March of Dimes.

To make the case for alcohol abstention and pregnancy even stronger, according to recent studies, women who continue to drink even small amounts of alcohol while trying to become pregnant, might reduce their chances of conceiving.

When a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol passes quickly through the placenta to her unborn baby. Because the unborn baby's body is immature and underdeveloped, the baby's body breaks down alcohol significantly more slowly than in an adult's body.

Consequently, the alcohol level in the baby's blood can be significantly higher and remain elevated significantly longer than the alcohol level in the mother's blood. This unhealthy situation can lead to lifelong damage to the baby.

Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year in the United States, between 1,300 and 8,000 babies are born with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

Fetal alcohol syndrome is a combination of mental and physical birth defects that affects approximately 6% of the babies born to women who are alcoholics or alcohol abusers. These women either have repeated episodes of binge drinking or drink heavily throughout pregnancy.

FAS is one of the most common known causes of infant mental retardation, and is the only cause of this deformity that is preventable. Babies with classic FAS are born abnormally small and typically do not manifest normal growth as they get older.

Babies with FAS may be born with a short or upturned nose, small eyes, and small, flat cheeks. The organs, especially the heart, of the babies with FAS may not develop properly.

Moreover, many babies with FAS also have underdeveloped brains that are small and abnormally formed. Most babies with FAS have some degree of mental disability, poor coordination, a short attention span, and behavioral problems.

Sadly, even if not mentally retarded, adolescents and adults with FAS usually have different degrees of behavioral and emotional problems and often find it difficult to live independently and to keep a job.

Is it Safe to Drink Alcohol While Breastfeeding?

According to one study, it was found that the breastfed babies of women who had one or more drinks a day were slightly slower in acquiring motor skills (such as walking and crawling than babies who had not been exposed to alcohol.

Since small amounts of alcohol from the mother can get into breast milk and passed on to the baby, and since excessive amounts of alcohol may impede the flow of milk from the breast, the March of Dimes strongly urges women to refrain from drinking alcohol while they are nursing.

Where Can a Woman Get Help for Drinking Problems?

Some women find it difficult to stop drinking. The following organizations can help:

Drug Abuse and Pregnancy

Studies have shown that consumption of illegal drugs (such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, PCP and BSD, and methamphetamines) during pregnancy can result in miscarriage, premature labor, fetal death, low birth-weight, placental abruption, and maternal death.

Since alcohol and drug abuse during pregnancy can lead to debilitating mental, physical, and social problems that can last a lifetime (not to mention the death of the baby and or the mother), it is critical that women who are pregnant, those who want to become pregnant, and women who are nursing their babies totally abstain from drinking alcohol and from taking illegal drugs.

How Can You Get Drug Abuse Help?

You can get help from support groups, treatment programs, and from counseling. Popular groups include the 12- step program with Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Numbers that can help you locate a treatment center include the following:

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Conclusion: Alcohol and Drug Abuse During Pregnancy

All teens and adults need to know that alcohol and drug abuse during pregnancy not only lead to dangerous consequences and harmful effects on the baby, but they can also be fatal.

While it is not known exactly how much alcohol can be consumed or how much a pregnant woman can abuse drugs before serious birth defects result, this much is known: alcohol-related and drug-related birth defects are 100% avoidable simply by abstaining from drinking alcohol or from abusing drugs during pregnancy.

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