Alcohol and Drug Abuse During Pregnancy

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Do the terms "alcohol and pregnancy" ever make sense?

Is drug and alcohol abuse during pregnancy ever a "good" thing?

Stated differently, are there any verifiable "benefits" for drug abuse and drinking alcohol during pregnancy?

The alcohol and pregnancy and drug abuse research literature clearly demonstrates that the answers to these questions is "no."

It is unknown precisely how much a pregnant woman can use and abuse drugs and how much alcohol can be ingested before serious birth defects result.

This much, however, is known: alcohol-related and drug-related birth defects are 100% avoidable simply by abstaining from abusing drugs or drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Since this is the case, why not simply refrain from abusing drugs and drinking alcohol during pregnancy?

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Is it Safe to Drink Alcohol During Pregnancy?

Is it safe to drink alcohol during pregnancy? Do the words "alcohol and pregnancy" ever result in something positive? In a word, no.

Why? Because drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a number of dangerous consequences and harmful effects on the baby.

For example, drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause mental retardation and/or learning and behavioral problems that can last a lifetime.

Not surprisingly, the exact amount of alcohol that is required to cause these problems is not precisely known.

What IS known, however, is that these alcohol-related birth defects are 100% avoidable, simply by refraining from drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

As a consequence, the safest course for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant is abstaining from drinking alcohol.

Alcohol-Related Mental and Physical Birth Defects

As articulated above, drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to mental and physical birth defects.

Unfortunately, every year in the United States, more than 40,000 babies are born with some degree of alcohol-related impairment.

Although many, if not most, women know that heavy drinking during pregnancy can lead to birth defects, many woman, apparently, are unaware or do not comprehend that restrained or even light drinking can seriously impair or damage the unborn fetus.

Since no level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been proven safe, the March of Dimes strongly urges pregnant women to abstain from all alcohol, including beer, wine, hard liquor, and wine coolers during their entire pregnancy AND also while nursing.

Moreover, since some women remain unaware of their pregnancy for 2 or more months, women who are pregnant or those who are trying to become pregnant should refrain from alcoholic beverages, according to the March of Dimes.

To make the case for alcohol abstention and pregnancy even stronger, according to recent studies, women who continue to drink even small amounts of alcohol while trying to become pregnant, might reduce their chances of conceiving.

Possible Lifelong Damage To the Baby

When a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol passes quickly through the placenta to her unborn baby.

Due to the fact that the unborn baby's body is immature and underdeveloped, the baby's body breaks down alcohol significantly more slowly than in an adult's body.

As a result, the alcohol level in the baby's blood can be significantly higher and remain elevated significantly longer than the alcohol level in the mother's blood. This unhealthy situation can lead to lifelong damage to the baby.

The Hazards of Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year in the United States, between 1,300 and 8,000 babies are born with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

Fetal alcohol syndrome is a combination of physical and mental birth defects that affects roughly 6% of the babies born to women who are alcoholics or alcohol abusers.

These women either have repeated episodes of binge drinking or drink excessively throughout pregnancy.

Fetal alcohol syndrome is one of the most common known causes of infant mental retardation, and is the only cause of this deformity that is preventable.

Babies with classic fetal alcohol syndrome are born abnormally small and typically do not manifest normal growth as they get older.

Babies with fetal alcohol syndrome may be born with small eyes, a short or upturned nose, small, flat cheeks.

Moreover, the organs, especially the heart, of the babies with fetal alcohol syndrome may not develop properly.

Not only this, but many babies with fetal alcohol syndrome also have underdeveloped brains that are small and abnormally formed.

As a result, most babies with fetal alcohol syndrome have some degree of mental disability, poor coordination, a short attention span, and behavioral problems.

Unfortunately, even if not mentally retarded, adolescents and adults with fetal alcohol syndrome usually have different degrees of emotional and behavioral problems and frequently find it difficult to live independently and to maintain employment.

Is it Safe to Drink Alcohol While Breastfeeding?

According to one study, it was found that the breastfed babies of women who had one or more drinks a day were slightly slower in acquiring motor skills (such as crawling and walking) than babies who had not been exposed to alcohol.

Since small amounts of alcohol from the mother can get into breast milk and passed on to the baby, and since excessive amounts of alcohol may impede the flow of milk from the breast, the March of Dimes strongly urges women to refrain from drinking alcohol while they are nursing.

Where Can a Woman Get Help in Stopping Drinking?

Some women find it difficult to stop drinking. The following organizations may help with this problem:

Drug Abuse and Pregnancy

Studies have shown that consumption of illegal drugs (such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, BSD and PCP, and methamphetamines) during pregnancy can result in premature labor, placental abruption, fetal death, miscarriage, low birth-weight, and maternal death.

Since drug and alcohol abuse during pregnancy can lead to debilitating physical, social, and psychological problems that can last a lifetime (not to mention the death of the baby and or the mother), it is critical that women who are pregnant, those who want to become pregnant, and women who are nursing their babies totally abstain from taking illegal drugs and drinking alcohol.

How Can I Get Drug Abuse Help?

You can get help from support groups, treatment programs, and from counseling.

Popular groups include the 12- step program with Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Numbers that can help you locate a treatment center include the following:

  • National Drug Help Hotline 1-800-662-4357

  • National Alcohol and Drug Dependence Hopeline 1-800-622-2255

Conclusion: Alcohol and Drug Abuse During Pregnancy

All teenagers and adults need to know that drug abuse and drinking alcohol during pregnancy not only lead to damaging consequences and harmful effects on the baby, but they can also be fatal.

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In a word, "drugs and pregnancy" and "alcohol and pregnancy" don't make any sense from a realistic or from a common sense perspective.

Even though it is not known exactly how much alcohol can be consumed or how much a pregnant woman can abuse drugs before serious birth defects occur, this much, nevertheless, is known: drug-related and alcohol-related birth defects are 100% avoidable simply by refraining from abusing drugs or drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

In short, drug abuse and drinking alcohol during pregnancy should be avoided at all costs.

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