Posts Tagged ‘drinking during pregnancy’

Chat on alcohol and pregnancy

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Alcohol chat

Join us for a #pregnancychat next Tuesday at 1 PM ET on alcohol and pregnancy. How much is really OK? What does your health care professional say? What does research show us? Get the real story.

Alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

no-alcoholToday’s guest post is from Dr. Siobhan Dolan, an OBGYN, medical advisor to the March of Dimes, and author of Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby.

Tomorrow I will drop my eldest daughter at college.  It is an amazing rite of passage and I hope she is happy in the next few years, making lots of friends and striving to reach her intellectual potential.

I don’t know a mother who doesn’t feel the way I do – that they would do anything to make life better for their child.

So as an obstetrician gynecologist, I am continually surprised when women ask me if it is okay to have a glass of wine during pregnancy.

The answer is really NO.

We know that alcohol is a neurotoxicant that affects the developing brain.  When consumed in excess during pregnancy, alcohol crosses the placenta and affects the fetus.  It has been clearly associated with a constellation of physical, mental and behavior problem in babies called fetal alcohol syndrome.  In fact, alcohol use during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of intellectual disability.

We think of fetal alcohol syndrome along a spectrum, with smaller amounts of alcohol having a small effect and larger amounts having a more profound effect.  This is called a dose-response relationship and it has been demonstrated with regard to alcohol use in pregnancy.  So why would you drink even a small amount of alcohol and impart a small risk to your developing fetus?

Each woman is different in how she metabolizes alcohol, based on genetics and metabolism, and thus there is no way to establish a safe level of alcohol for every woman.  Therefore, March of Dimes is clear that there is no safe level of alcohol intake that can assure no effect.

So let’s use common sense along with science – avoid alcohol if planning a pregnancy and most certainly cut it out entirely once pregnant.  I think parents and doctors can agree that the benefits of a glass of wine are minimal at best and so the risk is just not worth it.

For more information about Dr. Dolan’s book, Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby, click on this link.

Physical defects in fetal alcohol syndrome

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Many people have heard that mental retardation, emotional and learning problems are associated with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). But physical defects involving the heart, face and other organs also exist. The most severe of the effects caused by drinking during pregnancy involve a combination of physical and mental birth defects.

Although many women are aware that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects, many do not realize that moderate or even light drinking also may harm the fetus. A study, published online in Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2012 Jan 17, is the first of its kind to compare patterns of alcohol exposure and physical defects.

Researchers analyzed data from 992 pregnant women with a history of alcohol consumption during pregnancy who had enrolled in a study in California. Data on exposure were collected at enrollment and every 3 months during pregnancy. A physical examination of all infants was performed by a dysmorphologist (a clinical geneticist specializing in abnormal physical development) who knew nothing of the prenatal history regarding each baby. Patterns of each mother’s drinking were evaluated by drinks per day, number of binge episodes, and maximum number of drinks. Timing of exposure to alcohol was evaluated at 0 to 6 weeks postconception, 6 to 12 weeks postconception, first trimester, second trimester, and third trimester.

This study revealed that reduced birth length and weight, microcephaly (abnormal smallness of the head), a smooth philtrum (groove in the middle of the upper lip), and a thin vermillion border (the line between red lips and pale skin of the face) are associated with specific gestational timing of prenatal alcohol exposure. These were all dose-related effects and there was no safe amount detected beyond which a defect could occur. Bottom line: There is no safe amount of alcohol a pregnant woman can consume. Even a small amount can cause an impact.

The authors of this study feel that this data indicates a need to continue to advise women to abstain from drinking alcohol from conception throughout pregnancy.

How I Met Your Mother

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Did you see the TV episode of How I Met Your Mother last night? It’s a funny show that’s always producing laughs. But one of last night’s chuckles wasn’t as spot on as usual.

The character Lily is pregnant on the show and last night her doctor told her it’s OK to drink a little wine while pregnant. The Ted character disagreed with the doc’s comment but later conceded. At the end of the show, Lily was shown holding a bowl of chips and a bottle of wine. I know it was meant to be funny, but that part wasn’t. Pregnant women should not drink alcohol – any alcohol.

Although many people are aware that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects, many do not realize that moderate or even light drinking also may harm the baby. In fact, no level of alcohol use during pregnancy has been proven safe. Therefore, the March of Dimes recommends that pregnant women do not drink any alcohol, including beer, wine, wine coolers and liquor, throughout their pregnancy and while nursing. In addition, because women often do not know they are pregnant for a few months, women who may be pregnant or those who are attempting to become pregnant should not drink alcohol.

Another segment of the show involved eating sushi. Raw fish, including sushi and sashimi, and undercooked finfish and shellfish (including oysters, clams, mussels and scallops) are more likely to contain parasites or bacteria than cooked fish and, therefore, should be avoided by pregnant women.

My take away from this is to enjoy the laughs, but remember it’s just TV. Follow reliable medical advice and speak to your own health care provider.

What about that glass of wine?

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

wineThere’s a hot discussion on Twitter right now about whether or not it’s OK to have a glass of wine when you’re pregnant. Our friend @ResourcefulMom decided to “open that can of worms” and we’re glad she did.

Let’s start by stating the facts: There is no known safe amount of alcohol a woman can drink during pregnancy. Period. We say it. ACOG (the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists) says it. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) says it.

Although many women are aware that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects like fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), many do not realize that moderate or even light drinking also may harm a developing baby. An interesting article in TIME last fall   referenced a recent study that made several noteworthy points about the varying degrees to which alcohol can affect a baby.

If you’re drinking, so is your baby. 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. As a result, Mom may feel fine but the alcohol level of the baby’s blood can be higher and remain elevated longer than the level in the mother’s blood. This sometimes causes the baby to suffer lifelong damage.

Binging is a big problem in this country. About 1 in 30 pregnant women report binge drinking (four or more drinks on any one occasion). Women who binge drink or drink heavily greatly increase the risk of alcohol-related damage to their babies. A 2008 Danish study found that women who binge drink three or more times during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy had a 56 percent greater risk for stillbirth than women who did not binge drink. Another 2008 study found that women who had five or more drinks a week were 70 percent more likely to have a stillborn baby than non-drinking women. Those are horrible numbers!

Yes, but you don’t binge drink. So what if your doc says one glass is OK? Well, what does he mean? How much is in one glass?  Have you seen the shapes and sizes of wine glasses lately? Some are small and look like a juice glass, others are enormous. Do you fill it half-full or all the way? If your doc specified, would you actually know what 4 ounces looks like in your glass?  The fact of the matter is that in this country where everything is super-sized we’re more than likely knocking back a great deal more than we think.

The March of Dimes recommends that pregnant women do not drink any alcohol, including beer, wine, wine coolers and liquor, throughout their pregnancy and while nursing. And, because we often don’t know when we conceive, women who may be pregnant or those who want to become pregnant also should not drink alcohol. Our point is that if science doesn’t know if something is safe, considering what’s at stake, why would you risk it?   It seems best to stick with mocktails and other non-alcoholic beverages.