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Alcohol and Pregnancy

August 22, 2022
Virtual Gynecology

Experts strongly recommend that pregnant women should avoid alcohol during pregnancy. There is no "safe" amount of alcohol during pregnancy, including beer, wine, wine coolers, and liquor.

Alcohol is harmful throughout pregnancy but most during the first three months of pregnancy. Drinking alcohol while pregnant puts your baby at risk for developmental problems, long-term medical problems and birth defects. Women planning to get pregnant are also urged to stay away from alcohol. The more alcohol you drink, the higher the risks.

How does alcohol affect my unborn baby?

When you drink alcohol, the alcohol travels through your blood, into the placenta and gets into the blood, tissues, and organs of your baby.

Your baby's liver does not mature until later in pregnancy. Hence, your baby cannot break down alcohol efficiently, and the alcohol level remains high for a prolonged period in your baby's blood. High and prolonged exposure to alcohol seriously affects your baby's development and causes low birth weight, cerebral palsy, and other problems later in life. 

Drinking alcohol in pregnancy also increases the risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, and stillbirth.

One serious condition that drinking during pregnancy causes is fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

What is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)?

Fetal alcohol syndrome disorder (FASD) is a group of defects seen in a baby exposed to alcohol before birth. Symptoms of FASD are lifelong and can range from mild to severe. They include:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Intellectual disability or low IQ
  • Behaviour problems
  • Attention difficulty
  • Poor memory
  • Problems with movement and balance
  • Problems managing emotions and developing social skills
  • Poor reasoning and judgment skills
  • Hyperactivity 
  • Poor coordination
  • Problems with speech and language
  • Low birth weight
  • Small head size
  • Poor growth before and after birth
  • Heart defects
  • Kidney problems
  • Problems with the joints, bones, and muscles 
  • Vision and hearing problems
  • Abnormal facial features, such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip (this ridge is called the philtrum)
  • Poor sucking ability as a baby

Avoid Drinking during Pregnancy

How much you drink is as important as how often you drink. Do not take any amount of alcohol during pregnancy. One time is enough to harm your baby.

Avoiding alcohol throughout pregnancy may not be as difficult as you think. If you are planning to become pregnant or once you find out you are pregnant, do give up drinking.

If you already drank before you found out you were pregnant, avoid further drinking. Avoid being around people who drink; it could make it harder for you to stop.

If you find it difficult to stop or have concerns, you can talk to us at My Virtual Physician or your local doctor or healthcare provider. You could also join an alcohol abuse rehabilitation program. 

How can we help you?

A visit to us helps you get your prenatal care started while you await your appointment with your local OB doctor. Your virtual physician can help to electronically order prenatal care labs and/or send an order to the nearest radiology facility for you to get an ultrasound.

At My Virtual Physician, we are available to help guide you through your pregnancy and answer any questions that may arise. We are in network with many insurance health plans, including Medicaid, Medicare, United HealthCare, and Blue Cross. 

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