No. When you drink alcohol, so does your unborn baby. Any amount of alcohol, even if it’s just one glass of wine, passes from the mother to the baby. Developing babies lack the ability to process, or metabolize, alcohol through the liver or other organs. They absorb all of the alcohol and have the same blood alcohol concentration as the mother. Alcohol is toxic to a growing baby and can interfere with healthy development causing brain damage and other birth defects. It makes no difference if the alcohol is a liquor or distilled spirit such as vodka, or beer or wine. There is no known safe amount of alcohol when you are pregnant. For more information, watch this video of medical experts on light drinking.
No. Any kind of alcohol can harm your growing baby. There is a misconception that red wine is less harmful than other types of alcohol. There is no evidence to support this. Wine, beer, wine coolers, liquor, and mixed drinks are all unsafe during pregnancy. A 12-ounce beer, a 4-ounce glass of wine and a 1-ounce shot of liquor has the same amount of alcohol. For more information, watch this video of medical experts on light drinking.
Many people believe that there is a time during early pregnancy when it is considered ok to have a few drinks. However, because a baby’s organs are already starting to form just three weeks after conception, drinking at any time during pregnancy is considered dangerous and could potentially harm the baby. The healthiest choice is to stop drinking even before trying to get pregnant. The presence of alcohol in the first few weeks of gestation might result in the most devastating effects, such as spontaneous abortion. For more information, watch this video of medical experts on light drinking.
Stop drinking now. The sooner you stop drinking, the less your baby will be harmed by alcohol. Talk with your doctor if you have been using alcohol or if you find it hard to stop drinking. To hear personal stories of women who drank alcohol during their pregnancy, watch these videos.
Every pregnancy is different. Drinking alcohol can hurt some babies more than others. Often, birth defects caused by alcohol are not apparent at birth or even early childhood, but may be identified as learning, behavioral or other problems later in life. For more information on the risks, watch this video with Dr. Roger Zoorob.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. The term FASD is not intended for use as a clinical diagnosis.
Diagnostic terms under the FASD umbrella include:
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
- partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS)
- Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)
- Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD)
- Neurobehavioral Disorders Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure
(Source: National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome FASD Terminology Summit, 2004)
- FASD is the leading preventable cause of birth defects, developmental disabilities, and learning disabilities.
- FASD affects around 1 in 100 babies each year; nearly the same rate as Autism. FASD is more prevalent than Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, SIDS, Cystic Fibrosis, and Spina Bifida COMBINED.
- An estimated 40,000 newborns each year are affected by FASD
- FASD can affect anyone regardless of ethnicity, income or educational level.
- FAS and FASD are not genetic disorders. Women with FAS or affected by FASD have healthy babies if they do not drink alcohol during their pregnancy.
The following are some misconceptions that many people believe about FASD.
- FASD means the child is mentally retarded.
- Behavioral problems associated with FASD are all due to poor parenting and a bad living environment.
- Children will just “grow out of it”
- Mothers had an easy choice not to drink during pregnancy and were just careless.
Source: Elainecousineau.com, University of Washington.
FASD costs $6 billion annually in the United States.
It costs $1.4 million to treat one person with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome over their lifetime.
ARND is a condition under the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) umbrella. ARND refers to a complex range of disabilities in neurodevelopment and behavior, adaptive skills, and self-regulation in the presence of confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure. Specifically, individuals with ARND do not have the FAS facial abnormalities, but may have developmental disabilities including structural and/or functional central nervous system dysfunction (brain damage) with behavioral and learning problems.
(Source: Recognizing ARND in Primary Health Care of Children Consensus Statement, Interagency Coordinating Committee on FASD, 2011)
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a nonhereditary constellation of birth defects resulting from prenatal exposure to alcohol. A diagnosis of FAS requires the presence of all three of the following findings:
(Source: FAS: Guidelines for Referral and Diagnosis, National Center on Birth Defects and Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2004)
ARBD describes the physical defects linked to prenatal alcohol exposure, including heart, skeletal, kidney, ear, and eye malformations.
The term FAE was initially proposed (Clarren and Smith, 1978) for use when an adverse birth outcome could be proven to be related to alcohol exposure in utero. The term was never meant to be used with individual patients, and is now not commonly used.
(Source: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Prevention, and Treatment, Institute of Medicine, 1996)
If your baby’s brain does not develop correctly because of alcohol exposure, this can cause permanent developmental and intellectual disabilities. Your child will need lifelong care. Less serious problems can be treated but may limit your child’s abilities. Alcohol can affect unborn babies in many different ways. Babies can be born with some or all of these effects:
- Attention and memory problems
- Learning disabilities
- Hyperactivity and behavior problems
- Difficulty with judgment and reasoning
- Poor coordination or delayed motor skills
- Growth deficits
- Altered facial features (thin upper lip and no groove above lip)
- Mental retardation
- Heart, lung and kidney deficits
Many women do not plan to get pregnant, but it happens–every day. Most women do not know that they are pregnant for the first month or more of pregnancy. If you drink alcohol and have unprotected sex, you could become pregnant and unknowingly expose your growing baby to alcohol. If you are pregnant, planning a pregnancy, or if you could get pregnant, the safest choice is to not drink any amount of alcohol.
Many women are unaware of the consequences of drinking during pregnancy. Some women mistakenly believe that an occasional glass of wine is safe for the baby, or that wine and beer is not even alcohol. In many cases, the woman may be suffering from alcoholism. She may need to know what effects alcohol can have on the baby. She also may need help getting into treatment. In such cases, you should contact a treatment professional at a local addiction center for advice on how to help. You can find treatment resources in the NOFAS Resource Directory.
Though children with FASD may exhibit deficits in attention, there is a difference between FASD and ADHD. Though there is not much difference behaviorally, the underlying cognitive mechanisms differ greatly. Many studies have shown that children with FASD have a harder time interpreting the emotions or mental state of another person. Children with ADHD may be able to recognize and understand social rules, but may fail to apply them. Therefore, careful and accurate diagnoses and treatment must be found for either condition. Source: alcohol-abuse.info
The effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on mental health are very common and can greatly disrupt the lives of alcohol-exposed children and their families. The most frequent problem observed is attention deficits. However; depression, emotional disorders, speech disorders, and hyperactivity are also prevalent. Research has also shown that other psychiatric disorders, such as Tourette syndrome and autism, can be worsened by early alcohol exposure. Source: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Guidelines for Referral and Diagnosis.
The diagnosis of FASD follows a specific outline. Individuals with FASD are generally found to have:
1) Growth problems (e.g. unusually low birth weight and size, before and after birth)
2) Facial dysmorphia (e.g. small head, small eyes, underdevelopment of the upper lip, indistinct groove between lip and nose, flattened cheekbones)
3) CNS abnormality (e.g. delayed brain development, intellectual impairment)
Children with FASD are at a high risk for several secondary problems, such as:
- a disrupted school experience
- getting in trouble with the law
- alcohol and drug abuse
- inappropriate sexual behavior
- mental health issues
- inability to live independently
Even though only the mother’s drinking can cause FASD, it has been shown that drinking can also lower testosterone levels in a male, which can harm the sperm. This leads to an increased risk of disorders in the offspring. Source: Paternal exposure to alcohol , Abel, 1992.
Though there is no direct cure for FASD, there are many different types of treatment available. These include types of medication to help with symptoms, behavioral therapy, and parent training. Treatment options vary depending on the child and what works best for him/her. Many “protective factors” have proven to help reduce the effects of FASD, such as:
- early diagnosis
- special education and social services
- a loving and nurturing environment
- the absence of violence
Alcohol passes from the mother to the baby through the placenta. However, the effects of alcohol are doubly felt on the baby because of its size and because the baby is still underdeveloped. Though it has not been proven that alcohol in a mother’s breast milk can cause FASD in her child, research has shown that a small amount of alcohol in breast milk does affect the baby’s development, sleep and learning.
The areas most affected by alcohol in the fetus are the skeletal structures, organs, central nervous system, and related rates of growth. Specifically in the central nervous system, alcohol can:
- interfere with the normal proliferation of nerve cells
- increase the formation of cell-damaging molecular fragments
- alter the cell’s ability to produce or regulate cell growth, division and survival
- alter the formation of axons
- alter cell membranes
- alter the pathways of electrical signals within cells
- alter the expression of certain genes.
Source: FASD, Competency-Based Curriculum Development Guide
- Universal prevention efforts: These aim to educate the public of the dangers of alcohol use during pregnancy. Examples include: warning labels on beverages, PSA’s, mass media campaigns.
- Selective prevention interventions: This targets a certain individual or subgroup of the population who is more likely to have an alcohol-exposed pregnancy, meaning all women of childbearing age who drink alcohol. Examples of this include screening women for alcohol-use and providing information for those at risk.
- Indicated prevention interventions: These are aimed at women who are at the highest risk for giving birth to a child with FASD. These women include those who have had a previous child with FASD or have a known history of alcohol abuse or dependence. Interventions include alcohol treatment and measures to prevent pregnancy.
Source: FASD, Competency-Based Curriculum Development Guide
There are many options available for treatment of alcohol abuse. Alcohol dependence is usually treated through withdrawal and detoxification, followed by further intervention to prevent relapse. Other interventions include:
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Cognitive-behavior therapy – aimed at helping individuals to cope with situations and relapse through role-play and rehearsal
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy – which motivates patients do use their own resources to help change their behavior
- Pharmacotherapy – use of anticraving medications
Consult a doctor to decide which method works best for you. Source: FASD, Competency-Based Curriculum Development Guide