Alcohol and pregnancy: How it affects an unborn child

Alcohol and pregnancy: How it affects 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 of abuse, 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 mother’s drinking habit, which can lead to  a life-threatening condition known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

What is FASD?

FASD is a comprehensive group of disorders that occurs in a fetus when a woman is exposed to alcohol during her pregnancy. These disorders, affecting the development of the baby, can cause severe mental and physical imbalances. It is mostly identified by learning disabilities, slow growth and other adverse physical and mental behaviors. FSAD can be of various types, such as:

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

How does alcohol damage fetus?

Whether binge, moderate or heavy, drinking 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 proportion in the fetus, preventing its nutrition and supply of oxygen. And since the fetus cannot breakdown the effects of alcohol easily, it stays high for a long period.

Pregnancies are often unplanned and women tend to drink alcohol before they are aware of their pregnancy. 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 deficits
  • cardiac abnormalities
  • behavioral changes
  • psychotic disorders
  • intellectual deficit
  • kidney and heart issues
  • deformed limbs
  • hyperactivity

The reason why mothers are abstained 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 life outcomes. 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
  • causes death of cells in the embryo, abstaining its normal growth
  • interferes with 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

The process of recovery from an addiction to any substance starts when an individual realizes the deleterious effects that it can have on his or her overall health. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, stop alcohol right away. Change your drinking habits before they change you.

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.

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