Why It’s Never Okay to Drink Alcohol While Pregnant, Seriously

Drinking During Pregnancy Leads To Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)!

Is it ok to drink alcohol during your pregnancy? You all know the answer….NO! Drinking during pregnancy is simply not worth the risk. Yet, many women around the world continue to drink during their pregnancy. Approximately 9.8% of pregnant women globally consume alcohol during pregnancy; the majority of which are European, North American, Russian and Australian (7). What effect does alcohol have on a growing fetus? What are the consequences of drinking alcohol during pregnancy? This article presents the science behind alcohol consumption during pregnancy and how it leads to fetal alcohol syndrome.

fetal alcohol syndrome

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome And Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Is any amount of alcohol acceptable during pregnancy? The answer is NO! Alcohol is the only culprit in fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). FAS and FASD produce a wide variety of debilitating symptoms such as (8,9):

  • Permanent brain damage
  • Prenatal growth restriction
  • Postnatal growth restriction
  • Congenital anomalies
  • Deformed facial features
  • Chromosomal abnormalities
  • Cognitive impairment leading to:
    • Behavioral issues
    • Mental health problems
    • Decreased ability to process linguistic, auditory and visual information

Alcohol Is A Teratogen

Alcohol is a teratogen, a compound that can easily transfer from the mother to the fetus through the placenta. The consumption of alcohol while pregnant can cause life-threatening damage to the nervous system/internal organs of a developing fetus, leading to the following pregnancy complications (2,3,5,6):

  • Stillbirth
  • Spontaneous abortion
  • Premature birth
  • Intrauterine growth retardation
  • Low birthweight

FAS/FASD And Mental Health

The neurological damage caused by alcohol leads to FAS/FASD.  A condition that not only causes physiological harm and developmental problems in newborns but also causes secondary lifelong impairments.  In most cases, the secondary impairments of people with FAS/FASD experience throughout their lives come from an inability to develop into a psychologically mature adult. People with FAS/FASD are more likely to experience the following throughout their lives (10):

  • Academic failure
  • Mental health problems
  • Inability to live independently
  • Substance abuse
  • Trouble with law enforcement
  • Difficulty maintaining employment

What Factors Influence The Likelihood of Developing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?  

Although alcohol consumption has a high chance of causing detrimental consequences to the outcome of a pregnancy, not every woman who drinks during pregnancy will have a baby with FAS/FASD. This is because pregnancy comes with a level of uncertainty.

The mother and fetus may have genetics that reduces the teratogenic effects of alcohol, they may be in a highly supportive environment for a healthy pregnancy, they may have very low-stress levels that mitigate the neurological damage alcohol can cause, the mother can have an excellent nutritional status before and during the pregnancy that reduces the negative consequences of drinking alcohol on fetal development, and the lifestyle of the father also will have an influence on the effects of alcohol during pregnancy due to the genetic quality of his sperm (1,4).

Take Aways

You knew before reading this article; you shouldn’t  be drinking alcohol if you are pregnant. Hopefully, you now have a greater understanding of how consuming alcohol during pregnancy will lead to harmful outcomes for your child. Developing embryo’s are overly sensitive to the teratogenic effects of alcohol, and drinking alcohol during pregnancy can have detrimental consequences for newborns.

During the first stages of pregnancy, the growing fetus is most susceptible to damage from alcohol and other harmful substances. If you are looking to become pregnant, we recommend cutting alcohol out of your diet completely until your pregnancy is over.

Drinking during pregnancy is a huge issue and that’s why we are covering it in depth. If you are curious to find out “How Common Drinking is During Pregnancy Around The World“, click on the link and read our article!

 

If you are preparing your body for a healthy and thriving pregnancy, we have a free 10-day email course we recommend to get you started on the right path. Sign up for free today and get started on the best path for you and a thriving pregnancy.

If you are looking for a more in-depth explanation and management of MTHFR before pregnancy, be sure to check out our Flagship course “MTHFR and Preconception”. This 4 to 8 module course will guide you through the ins and outs of preparation your body will need to have a healthy and thriving pregnancy. Modules include what tests to expect, how to analyze the results and steps to take to prepare mentally, physically and emotionally for your pregnancy.

 

References

1. Day, J., Savani, S., Krempley, B. D., Nguyen, M., & Kitlinska, J. B. (2016). Influence of paternal preconception exposures on their offspring: through epigenetics to phenotype. American journal of stem cells, 5(1), 11.

2. Henriksen, T. B., Hjollund, N. H., Jensen, T. K., Bonde, J. P., Andersson, A. M., Kolstad, H., … & Olsen, J. (2004). Alcohol consumption at the time of conception and spontaneous abortion. American Journal of Epidemiology, 160(7), 661-667.

3. Kesmodel, U., Wisborg, K., Olsen, S. F., Henriksen, T. B., & Secher, N. J. (2002). Moderate alcohol intake during pregnancy and the risk of stillbirth and death in the first year of life. American journal of epidemiology, 155(4), 305-312. 4. May, P. A., & Gossage, J. P. (2011). Maternal risk factors for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: not as simple as it might seem. Alcohol Research & Health, 34(1), 15.

4. Patra, J., Bakker, R., Irving, H., Jaddoe, V. W., Malini, S., & Rehm, J. (2011). Dose-response relationship between alcohol consumption before and during pregnancy and the risks of low birthweight, preterm birth and small for gestational age (SGA)—a systematic review and meta‐analyses. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 118(12), 1411-1421.

5. Yang, Q., Witkiewicz, B. B., Olney, R. S., Liu, Y., Davis, M., Khoury, M. J., … & Erickson, J. D. (2001). A case-control study of maternal alcohol consumption and intrauterine growth retardation. Annals of epidemiology, 11(7), 497-503.

6. Popova, S., Lange, S., Probst, C., Gmel, G., & Rehm, J. (2017). Estimation of national, regional, and global prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy and fetal alcohol syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet Global Health, 5(3), e290-e299.

7. Popova, S., Lange, S., Shield, K., Mihic, A., Chudley, A. E., Mukherjee, R. A., … & Rehm, J. (2016). Comorbidity of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet, 387(10022), 978-987.

8. Riley, E. P., Infante, M. A., & Warren, K. R. (2011). Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: an overview. Neuropsychology review, 21(2), 73.

9. Streissguth, A. P., Barr, H. M., Kogan, J., & Bookstein, F. L. (1996). Understanding the occurrence of secondary disabilities in clients with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and fetal alcohol effects (FAE). Final report to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 96-06. (16)