Alcoholism When Pregnant

Doctors and medical professionals have been warning against the risks of drinking while pregnant for decades, yet it’s still something some women do. All kinds of addictions including not just alcohol but also drug addictions are the most dangerous when an unborn child is involved, but unfortunately, all too frequently women feel that they’re unable to stop either because they don’t have the resources or the professional guidance to help them do so.

The consequences can be incredibly damaging and sometimes deadly if you’re facing alcoholism when pregnant.

The following are some important things to know and consider about alcoholism when pregnant, as well as the risks that can come not with alcohol addiction while pregnant, but casual drinking.

Alcoholism When Pregnant
First and foremost, doctors recommend that women not only abstain from drinking while pregnant but also if they’re considering or trying to get pregnant. Drinking while you’re pregnant at any time, including before you know you are, can lead to problems with the baby, and there is a range of potential negative outcomes that can result from drinking while pregnant.

The CDC advises no amount of alcohol is considered safe when pregnant or when trying to conceive, and there’s no time during pregnancy where drinking is considered safe, contrary to many myths floating around.

The CDC also warns women against drinking even if they’re not trying to get pregnant but are sexually active without the use of adequate birth control. This is because almost half of all the pregnancies in the U.S. aren’t planned, and it often takes women anywhere from four to six weeks to know they’re pregnant.

According to the Harvard Health Blog, up to half of the women who are pregnant are believed not to report drinking some amount during that time.

The CDC reports that 1 in 10 pregnant women drink and 1 in 50 binge drink, which is five or more drinks in one sitting.

Heavy drinkers, which are those people who have more than two drinks a day, are at a higher risk of having a child with fetal alcohol syndrome, while moderate drinking can increase the chances of miscarriage.

One of the primary questions a lot of people have about alcoholism when pregnant is how it affects the fetus. While it’s not possible to predict the exact outcome, particularly because some women have higher levels of an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol than others, we do know that if you drink when pregnant or you have an alcohol problem and don’t abstain you are putting your unborn child at a higher risk of many harmful effects.

The potential effects of drinking and alcoholism when pregnant include:

  • Premature birth which indicates a baby born before the 37th week of pregnancy
  • Brain damage
  • Growth and development problems
  • Birth defects including hearing and vision issues and heart defects
  • Low birth weight
  • Miscarriage, which is when a baby dies in the womb before the 20th week of pregnancy
  • Stillbirth, when a baby dies in the womb after the 20th week of pregnancy
One of the most concerning risks that come with drinking and alcoholism during pregnancy is something called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).

When you drink or suffer from alcoholism during pregnancy, what you drink passes to your unborn child via the umbilical cord. If your child develops fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, symptoms can include the following:

  • Abnormal facial features
  • Small head
  • Shorter than average
  • Low body weight
  • Coordination problems
  • Hyperactivity
  • Attention problems
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty in school
  • Learning disabilities
  • Delays in speech and language
  • Low IQ
  • Intellectual disability
  • Low reasoning and judgment abilities
  • Problems sleeping and sucking as a baby
  • Vision problems
  • Hearing issues
  • Problems with the heart, bones or kidney

The effects of FASDs typically carry throughout the child’s lifetime, and ultimately this can lead to problems with taking care of themselves, learning, communicating, and getting along with other people.

The risks for FAS or FASDs are higher in women who had repetitive doses of alcohol during their pregnancy. It’s also important to note that drinking or alcoholism when pregnant can also contribute to a higher likelihood of the baby abusing alcohol later in their life.

It can be extremely scary to have alcoholism when pregnant. You may feel out of control of your drinking, but also afraid of what might happen to your unborn child. First, it’s essential that you get professional help. If you are an alcoholic, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking, which is why medical assistance is so important.

You can begin by taking to your health care provider or joining a group like Alcoholics Anonymous, but it’s often best to participate in some type of rehab facility.

It’s also important if you suffer from alcoholism when pregnant that you’re open and honest with your healthcare provider. A lot of women are ashamed so they don’t talk to their doctor, but this can put your baby at an even higher risk level.

What about if you don’t have alcoholism when pregnant, but you worry about your ability to stop drinking?

First, try to avoid situations where you might be triggered to want to drink, and if you do participate in these situations, try to bring a substitute for yourself, such as a flavored drink you enjoy. It’s also important that you remove alcohol from your home, so you don’t have temptation in private, and try to enlist the help and support of your partner, friends, and family while you avoid alcohol during your pregnancy.

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