Posts Tagged ‘fetal alcohol syndrome’

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.

Alcohol during pregnancy and FASDs

Friday, September 7th, 2012

pregnant-bellySeptember 9 is International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) Awareness Day. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause FASDs, which include a wide range of physical and mental disabilities and lasting emotional and behavioral problems in a child.

When you drink alcohol during pregnancy, so does your baby. The same amount of alcohol that is in your blood is also in your baby’s blood. The alcohol in your blood quickly passes through the placenta and to your baby through the umbilical cord.

Although your body is able to manage alcohol in your blood, your baby’s little body isn’t. Your liver works hard to break down the alcohol in your blood. But your baby’s liver is too small to do the same and alcohol can hurt your baby’s development. That’s why alcohol is much more harmful to your baby than to you during pregnancy. No amount of alcohol (one glass of wine, a beer…) is proven safe to drink during pregnancy.

Alcohol can lead your baby to have serious health conditions, FASDs. The most serious of these is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Fetal alcohol syndrome can seriously harm your baby’s development, both mentally and physically.  Alcohol can also cause your baby to:
• Have birth defects (heart, brain and other organs)
• Vision or hearing problems
• Be born too soon (preterm)
• Be born at low birthweight
• Have learning disabilities (including intellectual disabilities)
• Have sleeping and sucking problems
• Have speech and language delays
• Have behavioral problems

In order to continue raising awareness about alcohol use during pregnancy and FASDs, the CDC has posted a feature telling one woman’s story and her challenges with her son who has FASD. It’s an eye opener. The CDC’s FASD website has lots more information, too.

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.

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.

Alcohol awareness month

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

pregnancy-chicLots of women are aware that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects, but many do not realize that moderate or even light drinking also may harm their developing baby. In fact, no level of alcohol use during pregnancy has been proven safe – none.

Many folks think that a glass of wine is good for your heart, which may or may not be true, but it’s not good for a developing baby.  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. Did you know that each year in the United States, up to 40,000 babies are born with FASDs? It’s such a shame because these problems are totally preventable – totally. It’s so simple, just don’t drink if you’re hoping to be or are pregnant.  Isn’t a healthy baby worth waiting a few months for that glass of vino?

We’ve given tips before about partying without the booze and offer different recipes for drinks.  We wanted to remind you of them during Alcohol Awareness Month. Take these suggestions to heart to keep your little one safe.

One virgin piña colada, please!

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

pregnancy-coupleMy husband and I recently came back from our babymoon in Cancun, Mexico. With our first baby due at the end of November, our vacations will soon consist of road trips to visit with the grandparents and perhaps a trip to Disney World. So, what better way to have our last hurrah than to take a beach vacation just the two of us? While my husband never failed to order his margarita on the rocks at the swim-up bar, the bartenders already knew by looking at me that my beach beverage of choice was a virgin piña colada (without the shot of rum).

Alcohol during pregnancy is a no-no! Alcohol, even in small amounts, may harm your baby during pregnancy. Still, there are some people who believe that one or two drinks can’t hurt you. You may have even heard about a recent study from England suggesting that a little alcohol during pregnancy might be fine. But there really is no safe amount of alcohol for you to have during pregnancy. Every woman is different and alcohol affects each woman differently. While one drink might be okay for one woman during pregnancy, it could have devastating consequences for another. So, it’s best for both you and your baby to stay away from alcohol during pregnancy.

I liked my virgin beach beverages. Now, if I could only find a way to have warm weather, sunshine and live on the beach permanently… 🙂 .

Partying without the booze

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

drinksSpring break, woohoo!!!  Have a hot time but, if you’re pregnant or want to be, cool it with the booze. April is Alcohol Awareness Month so it’s time to remind ourselves that there is no safe amount of alcohol we can consume during pregnancy.  Want one more summer of regular margaritas and mojitos?  Then wait til the fall before you start thinking of baby.

Although many women are aware that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects like fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), many do not realize that moderate or even light drinking also may harm a developing baby. 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 women often don’t know they’re pregnant for a few months, women who may be pregnant or those who are attempting to become pregnant should not drink alcohol.

But if you’re hoping there’s a baby in your future, you can still hit the beach and have a good time at a party. I thought I’d resurrect a few great recipes for non-alcoholic drinks that are fun and yummy.  Read our post on bodacious beverages and cocktails anyone?  There are some great tips and comments.