Scientists have said repeatedly that drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects. Heavy drinkers are at a higher risk of having babies with adverse side effects.

But what about light alcohol use, or taking an occasional drink? Must you abstain 100% from alcohol?

In this article, you will discover what happens when you take alcohol during pregnancy and the effects of heavy or occasional drinking.

1. How Does Alcohol Consumption Affect your Unborn Child?

Alcohol here refers to drinks like beer, wine, gin, vodka, and liquor. Drinking alcohol regularly in any of the trimesters of pregnancy can lead to major health problems for the unborn child.

After taking alcohol while pregnant, the alcohol in the blood passes to the baby through the umbilical cord.

In adults, it is the liver that breaks down alcoholic drinks. Unfortunately, the baby’s liver is one of the last organs to develop fully.

This makes it difficult for the baby’s internal organs to process alcohol. As a result, alcohol becomes a toxic and harmful substance in the body of the baby.

Taking alcohol and any controlled substance can lead to problems at any time during pregnancy. That’s why women who intend to get pregnant, are pregnant, or are sexually active, without birth control, need to avoid taking alcohol, or smoking cigarettes, or taking any hard drugs.

Some of the known side effects of taking alcohol during pregnancy are:

  • Birth defects
  • Premature birth
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
  • Miscarriage and Stillbirth
  • Low birth weight

2. What of Low-level Infrequent Drinking?

The information about low-level is not as conclusive as that of binge drinking. Binge drinking involves drinking four or more drinks within two hours if you are a woman, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). In contrast, we don’t have the same precise information when talking about occasional drinking.

A study conducted in Denmark in 2012 on the effects on five-year-old kids whose mothers took alcohol classified drinking like this:

  • Binge drinking: Five or more drinks in one session.
  • High alcohol consumption: Taking nine drinks or more in a week.
  • Moderate alcohol consumption: Taking between five and eight drinks within a week.
  • Low alcohol consumption:  Taking between one to four drinks in a week.

The scientists checked the kids’ ability to concentrate, their performance on IQ tests, and other brain functions. Interestingly, they could not find any difference in the performance of kids whose mums took no alcohol and those who drank low quantities of alcohol.

Nonetheless, at this time, there’s insufficient evidence to prove that low alcohol consumption is harmless. 

3. Why Do Health Professionals Recommend Total Abstinence from Drinking?

The effect of the quantity of alcohol consumed is currently difficult to predict. Some mothers may take alcohol while pregnant and have healthy babies. On the other hand, some pregnant women may take alcohol once in a while and their babies will have major health conditions.

Each pregnancy is unique. Alcohol can harm one child more than the other. The safest way to ensure your child’s safety is to avoid alcohol if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

4. How to Stop Taking Alcohol While Pregnant

If you already have a regular drinking habit, you may need help to stop drinking as soon as you want to get pregnant. Remember that you have to abstain from alcohol early enough. You may not know that you are pregnant until the baby is four to six weeks old.

The following tips will make it easier to avoid taking alcohol.

  • Study your drinking habit and note the times you usually feel like drinking.
  • Remove all alcohol from your home.
  • Get other drinks like fruit drinks, flavored water, and others that are safe for pregnant women.
  • Don’t visit places where you will be tempted to ask for a drink.
  • Stay away from friends who drink. Let them know that drinking is unsafe for your baby.
  • Ask your partner to support you in your commitment to stop drinking during pregnancy
  • Visit your health provider and discuss some programs and therapies for alcoholics
  • Locate and join the Alcoholics Anonymous group in your locality.

Always remember to consult your doctor and attend antenatal classes regularly. Find out more about how drinking can affect your baby and receive professional advice on how to deal with an established drinking habit.

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