Alcohol is a teratogen. A teratogen is a substance known to be harmful to human development. Alcohol is able to cross the placenta to the baby hence, when you drink alcohol, so does your baby. Because babies are smaller compared to adults, alcohol break down much more slowly in babies than in a grown person. This means that alcohol remains in a baby’s blood much longer than in the blood of its mother thus leading to possible irreversible harm to the baby’s development.
How Alcohol Gets To The Baby
Alcohol moves through the placenta via the umbilical cord. During pregnancy the placenta is the only source of nutrition for the unborn child which makes it easy for alcohol to reach the baby. There, it comes into the developing baby’s body, affecting every organ and body system. After a pregnant woman ingests any kind of alcoholic drink, the alcohol swiftly passes through the umbilical cord, reaching the fetus where it can affect the brain, central nervous system, heart, eye, ears arms, external genitalia and palate of the fetus. If the mother continues to drink throughout her pregnancy, this constant exposure to alcohol will cause cumulative effects delaying normal growth and putting the unborn child at risk of several physical, emotional, mental and intellectual problems.
Pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant should avoid alcohol completely until after the baby has been born. Even drinking one glass of wine on a regular basis can put the unborn fetus at risk of several developmental and emotional disorders. If a woman believes she may be pregnant, should stop drinking altogether and refrain from taking in any alcoholic drinks throughout her pregnancy.
It isn’t only the pregnant woman who is responsible for ensuring she doesn’t drink. Her partner or spouse should also take the responsiblity of ensuring that she completely abstains from any alcohol throughout her pregnancy.
Effects of Alcohol in the Unborn Baby
A pregnant woman places her unborn child at risk of several issues if she continues to drink while she’s pregnant. These problems can include the following:
- Low birth weight
- Premature birth
- Miscarriage (fetus dies before the 20th week of pregnancy)
- Birth defects
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
- Stillbirth (fetus dies after 20 weeks of pregnancy).
In cases of fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, the baby may have several distinctive features of the disorder. The physical features and manifestations include:
- small head
- being shorter than peers
- low weight
- smooth ride between nose and upper lip.
Cognitive issues can include poor memory, attention difficulties problems with math skills, learning disabilities speech and language delays, low IQ and poor judgment skills. The child may also experience hyperactivity and behavioral issues.
Alcohol can also affect the pregnant woman negatively, especially if she is struggling with addiction issues. She may suffer from poor nutrition, smoke or weigh less than average. Women are to avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy. They have the right to know the paucity of evidence to support this position and how best to go about the issues of maintain a good health for themselves and their unborn baby. Click here to see more general advice in pregnancy.