The effects of alcohol in pregnancy

Many pregnant women consume alcohol in the first month, two of pregnancy, until they are even aware that they are pregnant. When the pregnancy test is positive, they begin to worry that they may have already harmed a living being in themselves. Many expectant mothers have a guilty conscience that having a glass of wine has harmed the little creature that grows in them. Also, there are mothers who are not aware of the effects of alcohol in pregnancy. The baby is known to get all the poisons contained in alcohol in a 1:1 ratio, which can disrupt cell division, position and development of his organs. Alcohol is nowadays considered as the most common culprit for the occurrence of congenital anomalies. As it has a neurotoxic effect, the central nervous system is practically always involved.

But the good news is that for the first few weeks after conception, nature acts on an all-or-nothing basis. Only the embryo that is healthy at that moment will grow further. If the cells, whether by alcohol, nicotine, medication or disease, are damaged, they will not continue to divide. In this case, there is an early miscarriage that a woman experiences as a delayed period. If the pregnancy is sustained, it is the best evidence that this alcoholic evening did not harm the fetus. But from the moment you find out you are pregnant, celebrate only with soft drinks!

Expectant mothers take the consequences of alcohol consumption insufficiently seriously, the most serious being fetal alcohol syndrome. Certain alcoholic beverages are seen in some areas as a “supplement” to foods, and are therefore considered to be food products. Any amount of alcoholic beverages, at any time of pregnancy, is harmful to the fetus. The popular belief that beer is good for milk or red wine for anemic pregnant women is wrong.

Also read: Effects of smoking during pregnancy

Does alcohol reach the baby solely via the umbilical cord?

When you drink, so does your child. When a pregnant woman drinks an alcoholic drink, it travels through the placenta into the baby’s bloodstream and into the organs. However, the amount of alcohol in the baby’s blood stays high much longer than in the mother, since the liver is one of the last organs to fully develop into a baby in the abdomen. This is why your child cannot process alcohol like you.

It is widely believed that alcohol can only harm an unborn baby when the placenta and umbilical cord have developed, but this is completely wrong! Ten to fourteen days after the fertilized egg arrives from the fallopian tube to the uterus, it is nested there. At this stage, there is no bond between the mother and baby’s bloodstream via the umbilical cord.

The embryo is, among other things, fed through the mother’s blood via the “yolk” sac. As soon as alcohol reaches the mother’s bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine, it can reach the embryo through cellular processes and damage cell division there.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Quite a few pregnant women have heard that drinking alcohol increases the risk of developing fetal alcohol syndrome. It is important to emphasize that it occurs most often in children whose mothers are alcoholics, although this is not the only rule.

But what exactly is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)? It is characterized by a lower birth weight of infants and prenatal and postnatal growth and development disorders. Diagnosis includes deformities of the face, cleft palate and malformations of the internal organs as well as heart defects, unusually shaped genitals and urinary tract, and disorders in psychic and psychomotor development. At a later age, it may be associated with learning, reading, and social adaptation difficulties.

Can the occasional ‘cup’ harm the baby?

Effects of alcohol in pregnancy

There is no safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy! Alcohol consumption, especially regular consumption, between the 7th and 12th weeks of gestation (the period during which alcohol carries the highest risk) is associated with the four most important facial signs of fetal alcohol syndrome, as well as decreased birth weight and length, which is also a characteristic of children with these syndrome. However, this does not mean that alcohol is safe for the first seven weeks, because the survey only considered data from women who gave birth to live children. No women who had miscarriages or gave birth to infants were considered, also possibly due to early exposure of children to alcohol.

There are no safe amounts of alcohol in pregnancy as the time when children begin to show signs of the syndrome varies from woman to woman. Therefore, it is safest to completely give up alcohol.

Scientific studies say that very little drunk alcohol or individual excesses with alcohol can harm an unborn baby. It is undoubted that alcohol by various mechanisms influences embryonic and fetal development. But we also cannot claim that one glass of wine will cause the child to have problems. However, before consuming every glass of alcohol, remember that your child drinks the same as you drink. So choose a safer route and stop consuming alcohol and exposing your child to its harmful effects.

Is a glass of wine less harmful when your child’s organs are formed?

Short and clear, no! Alcohol is harmful to the child at all times. But it is also a known fact that the first three months are a particularly sensitive phase of pregnancy because it is then that the position and shape of the organ are determined. Therefore, deformations in the child are very easily possible if cell division is exposed to the negative effects of alcohol. The brain is especially sensitive to the effects of alcohol because it has the effect of reducing nerve cell production and the brain is smaller at the end of development.

Alcohol is harmful to your baby at all times! In the period between the fourth and sixth months of pregnancy, alcohol primarily slows the growth of the unborn baby. In addition, the risk of miscarriage increases by two to four times during this period if a pregnant woman drinks more than 30 milliliters of alcohol twice a week.

From the seventh to the ninth month of pregnancy, the baby also grows enormously fast. At the same time, the brain gains in volume and the brain cells network. Alcohol is especially damaging in the third trimester of pregnancy as it slows down both of these processes.

Studies have shown, for example, that a daily intake of 29 grams of alcohol during pregnancy (equivalent to about one and a half glasses of white wine per 0.2 l) lowers the IQ of children by an average of 7 IQs.

It is unclear why alcohol does not harm all babies equally. It is very possible that the mother will give birth to a healthy baby even though she occasionally consumed alcohol. But the risk is simply too great! Thus, 30 to 40 percent of alcoholic mothers give birth to babies with mild symptoms of the disease, although they drank 300-350 grams of alcohol a day. On the other hand, there are women who drank 50-100 grams of alcohol whose children came into the world with very pronounced impairments.

What happens when alcohol enters the baby’s body?

For many, a glass of wine after lunch or dinner is part of the quality of life. For an unborn child, this means a health hazard. Because alcohol, more precisely, ethanol, soon after consumption through the stomach and small intestine reaches the bloodstream and easily reaches the embryo or fetus.

In this body, it reaches the same concentration as in the mother. Adults then break down alcohol (up to 90%) in the liver using the enzyme alcohol hydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). Both of these enzymes also function in the baby relatively early, but since its liver is just growing, it is able to break down alcohol with only 4 percent of an adult’s liver strength. Therefore, alcohol molecules linger much longer in the baby’s bloodstream.

Not all damage is shown immediately

There are no symptoms of FAS in all children at the same time. Only when several symptoms occur at the same time, and the mother consumes large amounts of alcohol during pregnancy, can the doctor diagnose FAS. Otherwise, statistics say that between 0.33 and 3 children are born with fetal alcohol syndrome per 1,000 births.

But more difficult consequences are emerging and then doctors talk about fetal alcohol effects (FAE), which are manifested by poorer intellectual outcomes in logical thinking and in solving more complicated problems. Such children do not process the information fast enough and have difficulty with attention. They often have impaired fine and gross motor skills and behavioral disorders such as hyperactivity. The exact number of children affected by these symptoms is unknown.

If you drink during pregnancy, your great-grandchildren will have consequences

Effects of alcohol in pregnancy
Grandmother and grandfather holding child on their lap

If the mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy, only small doses will increase the risk of developing alcoholism for the next three generations.

Research from Binghamton University, led by Dr. Nicole Cameron, shows that if a mother consumes only one glass of wine four times during the second trimester of pregnancy, her offspring by the third knee have an increased tendency for alcohol and less sensitivity to alcohol. Thus, offspring are more likely to develop alcoholism.

Also read: 10 foods that cleanse your liver naturally


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