Alcohol and Drug Abuse During Pregnancy
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.
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
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
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
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
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:
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.