Are you pregnant but wondering if taking one or two glasses of wine on a weekend can harm the fetus growing in your womb? If yes, then you are not alone.
If you interact with some of your friends, some will tell you that they occasionally sip a glass of Merlot or Champagne and their baby turned out to be just fine.
Others will tell you to avoid drinking alcohol completely during pregnancy. Doctors also give conflicting information on drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
Some say that drinking small quantities of alcohol will not harm the baby while others advise women not to drink alcohol during pregnancy at all.
As a result, many women who drink alcohol are usually confused as to whether to drink alcohol or not.
However, multiple studies conducted by credible institutions have revealed that pregnant women who engage in heavy drinking risk exposing their developing babies to various birth defects.
Studies have also found that drinking small quantities of alcohol can also cause birth defects to the fetus.
1. How Much Alcohol is too Much?
The million-dollar question is how much alcohol is too much?
According to experts, there is no amount of alcohol that has been proven to be safe for pregnant women. Researchers don’t really know the potential effects of consuming alcohol during pregnancy.
As a result, they cannot authoritatively say that drinking alcohol during a certain stage of the pregnancy is safe for the mother.
In addition to that, researchers also say that is very difficult to predict the effect of consuming alcohol for pregnant women because women have different levels of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol.
If it happens that a pregnant lady has a low level of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol, then the growing baby will be more vulnerable to harm because the alcohol will circulate in her bloodstream for a longer period of time, thus increasing the risk of harming the baby.
There are so many unknowns when it comes to alcohol and pregnancy. Many gynaecologists and paediatricians recommend that pregnant women should avoid drinking alcohol completely.
Some women usually believe that drinking alcohol late in the pregnancy is safe because the child’s brain has already formed but that is not true.
At eight months old, the baby’s brain and other vital organs are still immature and cannot withstand alcohol of any amount.
2. How alcohol is passed to the baby
When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, small quantities of alcohol usually find its way into the fetus. Remember that the developing baby obtains all nutrients from the mother.
Therefore, if the mother drinks alcohol, then some small quantities can get into the fetus and may harm the baby.
During pregnancy, alcohol usually moves through the placenta and finally the growing fetus.
Once it gets into the baby’s developing body, it affects vital organs and that can have a huge negative impact on the baby’s well-being and development.
a. Effects of alcohol to the growing baby
Pregnant women who drink alcohol risk exposing the unborn child to a wide range of behavioural physical and intellectual disabilities. These disabilities are commonly known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).
Drinking alcohol while pregnant increase the chances of your baby having the following problems.
b. Premature birth
Premature birth is when a birth is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Multiple studies have revealed that alcohol increases the chances of premature birth by up to 40%.
In fact, most mothers who have heard their babies before 37 weeks have admitted to having drunk alcohol while pregnant. Premature births can have serious health problems to the baby both at birth and also later in life.
c. Stillbirth and miscarriage
Stillbirth is where the baby dies in the mother’s womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Miscarriage is when the baby dies before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
d. Low birth weight
This is when the baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds
e. Birth defects
Alcohol can cause various birth defects to the child including hearing problems, heart defects, change in shape of some parts of the body, vision problems among many others.
f. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)
FASD refers to a wide range of development and intellectual problems including the problem with communicating, learning, low IQ, poor coordination, language delays, hyperactive behaviour, poor judgment skills among many others.
3. How alcohol can affect a pregnant woman
Drinking alcohol while pregnant not only affects the child but also affects the mother. First, a pregnant lady may suffer from poor nutrition. Most ladies who drink alcohol while pregnant, particularly those who are addicted usually don’t put so much attention to their diet.
As a result, most of them don’t eat healthy foods that can enhance their health and well-being. Pregnant women who engage in heavy drinking also risk having weight issues.
A recent study revealed that most pregnant women who drink alcohol risk weighing less than the average weight. This is largely attributed to the fact that they suffer from poor nutrition.
Having less than average weight increases the risk of complications both for the mother and unborn child.
Alcohol also increases the chances of pregnant women suffering from deadly such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
4. Tips on how to avoid alcohol during pregnancy
As discussed above, it is clear that drinking alcohol during pregnancy is not safe both to the child and the mother.
However, avoiding alcohol during pregnancy is not easy especially if you are used to drinking.
But just because it is difficult does not mean that it is impossible. There are many things that you can do to ensure that you have an alcohol free pregnancy.
In this section, we are going to give you tips on how to avoid drinking alcohol during your pregnancy.
a. Accept that drinking alcohol is a huge challenge for you
The first step towards quitting alcohol during pregnancy is accepting that you actually have a problem.
The reason why most pregnant women in the UK go back to drinking alcohol even after swearing never to drink again is that they have not accepted that they indeed have a problem.
Once you accept that you have a problem, it will be much easier to find a lasting solution. Remember that quitting alcohol for more than 9 months is not easy, especially for addicts.
You need to fully commit yourself and that can only happen if you accept that you indeed have a problem.
b. Avoid places or things that trigger you to drink alcohol
If you are serious about quitting alcohol during pregnancy, you must let go of things that tempt you to drink alcohol.
For instance, if you are used to eating your meals in a restaurant that also sales alcoholic drinks, then you should avoid such restaurants and look for one that only sales food and non-alcoholic drinks.
This way you won’t get tempted to drink. This strategy has worked for many pregnant women and can also work for you. However, it only works for light drinkers.
c. Choose your friends wisely
The people that you hang out with during pregnancy matters a lot. If you continue to hang out with your old friends whom you used to party with, then chances are that they might tempt you to drink.
Most pregnant women drink not because they want to but because they want to fit in to their social circle. The moment you discover that you are pregnant, then you must make hard decisions and that includes choosing who to hang out with and who to avoid.
You have to choose between safeguarding your own well being and that of your growing child or making your friends happy.
If you choose yourself and your growing child, then you need to avoid friends that tempt you to drink alcohol and only hang out with those who encourage you not to drink.
d. Have a good support network
Going through pregnancy is not easy. Although it is a wonderful experience for any lady who wants to become a mother, there are many challenges that come with pregnancy.
That is why you need a strong support network. If you have a drinking problem, talk to your family and close friends and tell them about your pregnancy and your intention not to drink while you are pregnant.
Once your support network knows your intentions clearly, they will not only support your pregnancy but will also avoid putting you in awkward situations that tempt you to drink.
5. Seek professional help
Seeking professional help is widely recommended for pregnant women who are addicted to alcohol. Just because you have realised that you are indeed pregnant will not wash away the fact that you are addicted to alcohol.
Alcohol addiction does not just happen overnight. It is a process that takes time. The same also applies if you want to quit drinking. You cannot just quit the same day.
It is a process that takes time and that is why you need to seek professional help.
In conclusion, if you have just realised that you are pregnant and you are wondering whether it is okay to drink alcohol in moderation, then the answer is NO. It is not okay to drink even a sip of alcohol.
There many dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy as discussed above. You should, therefore, avoid it at all cost to protect your own health and well-being and that of your growing child.
6. Taking the next step
To learn more about alcohol treatment, contact Rehab 4 Alcoholism today on 0800 111 4108.
We will conduct a short telephone assessment to allow us to match your needs up with treatment providers in your local area that offer treatment for alcohol, mental health problems and other addictions.