Alcoholism in the family – Part 2: Alcohol and its effect on an unborn child

Alcoholism in the family – Part 2: Alcohol and its effect on an unborn child

Alcohol is one of the most dangerous addictive substances that can affect a developing fetus. According to the Institute of Medical Report to Congress, alcohol produces the most serious neurobehavioral effects in the fetus, as compared to other substances such as marijuana, heroin or cocaine. Whether a glass of wine, a bottle of beer or a shot of vodka, the fluids consumed by the mother can get transferred to the embryo through the placenta.

Just like a passive smoker who inhales carbon monoxide released by someone else and can still be exposed to risks of cancer and other health problems, an unborn baby may also be exposed to alcohol due to the mother’s drinking habit, which can lead to a life-threatening condition known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). It is a comprehensive group of disorders that occurs in a fetus when a woman is exposed to alcohol during her pregnancy.

These disorders can cause severe mental and physical imbalances in the baby. It is mostly identified by learning disabilities, slow growth and other adverse physical and mental behaviors. FASD can be of various types, such as:

  • fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)
  • partial fetal alcohol syndrome
  • alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder
  • a neurobehavioral disorder associated with prenatal exposure to alcohol
  • alcohol-related birth defects

Alcohol can damage the fetus

Whether binge, moderate or heavy drinking, alcohol during pregnancy can lead to severe damage to the fetus with an increased risk of fetal death. When a pregnant woman consumes alcohol, her baby is also predisposed to its detrimental effects. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead to its accumulation in higher proportions in the fetus, disrupting its nutrition and supply of oxygen. And since the fetus cannot break down the residues of alcohol easily, it stays high for a long period of time.

Pregnancies are often unplanned and women tend to drink alcohol before they become aware of their condition. Studies have shown that alcohol not only affects the central nervous system but also other organs related to it. Drinking at any time during pregnancy can cause severe dysfunction of the fetus, which includes:

  • mental imbalance
  • attention deficit
  • cardiac abnormalities
  • behavioral changes
  • psychotic disorders
  • intellectual deficit
  • kidney and heart issues
  • deformed limbs
  • hyperactivity

The reason why mothers abstain from alcohol during pregnancy and breastfeeding is that during this period, every part of the baby’s body is in its developmental stage and any negative changes can give rise to adverse outcomes which can stay for life. Exposure to alcohol may have the following effects on the fetus:

  • passes through the placenta and enters the fetus through the umbilical cord causing FASD
  • leads to the death of the cells in the embryo, preventing its normal growth
  • interferes in the blood circulation and acts as a barrier in the supply of oxygen and nutrients
  • disturbs the way cells travel to form different parts of the brain

Seeking prevention and treatment

If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, stop alcohol right away. Change your drinking habits before they destroy you. The process of recovery from an addiction to any substance begins when an individual realizes the deleterious effects that it can have on his or her overall health. In the series, “Alcoholism in the family,” we also take a look at how an addiction, especially to alcohol can have a detrimental effect even on our loved ones.

Discussing your addiction issues with a health practitioner is a great way to get rid of your dependence. If you or your loved one is trying to overcome alcohol addiction, the Alcohol Addiction Helpline of California can help you connect to various alcohol treatment centers in California. You may call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1715 or chat online for more information regarding alcohol rehab centers in California. Our representatives will help you get in touch with one of the reputed alcohol addiction treatment facilities in California.

Read the first part of the series, “Alcoholism in the family,” at:

Part 1: Living with parents addicted to alcohol

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