It is well known that pregnant woman should take care of her health and the health of the child developing in her womb. Following the recommendations of a physician woman should eat healthy food, rest more, try to avoid stress and contact with toxic substances, take only essential medicines, but… nearly 1/3 of pregnancy women admit to drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
Is there a “safe dose” of alcohol for pregnant woman? So far no medical research can specify the safe dose of alcohol, because every organism can tolerate alcohol differently.
How does alcohol affect the fetus?
The molecules of alcohol can easily pass through the placenta to the baby and after about half an hour from drinking alcohol by the mother, similar levels of alcohol in the blood reaches the developing fetus. Any dose of alcohol is toxic to the fetus, and has a detrimental effect on the unborn child, it depends on the quantity and frequency of alcohol use and the period of pregnancy (the highest risk to the fetus is the first trimester of pregnancy, in which the critical moments of embryogenesis take place).
Alcohol consumed during the pregnancy can cause:
- The risk of miscarriage and premature birth,
- The weaker growth of the baby and low birth weight,
- Damage of the brain and functional disorders of the brain,
- Distortion of the face and the skeletal system,
- Damage to the liver of the child, heart and kidney defects,
- Weakness of sight and hearing of the child,
- Child hyperactivity and impaired coordination,
- FAS – Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
What is FAS?
FAS – Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a congenital syndrome of somatic and neurological disorders in children whose mothers were drinking alcohol during pregnancy. The diagnosis of FAS is based on typical symptoms:
- Too low growth and body weight, and also head circumference too small for the fetus and the newborn child.
- Damage of the central nervous system, resulting in physical, intellectual and social impaired.
- Anomalies and deformities of the face and body: drooping eyelids, small palpebral fissures, epicanthal folds, a short nose, flat facial skeleton, narrow upper lip, smooth philtrum (under the nose), widely spaced eyes, small jaw, limb deformities, joint abnormalities, defects of internal organs such as genital defects, heart defects.
Developmental problems of children with FAS
- Emotional disorders – hyperactivity, ADHD, difficulties in processing large amount of stimuli, hypersensitivity to sound and touch, sleep disorders, impulsivity, fearfulness, excessive stubbornness, tendency to depression and outburst of anger.
- Difficulty of learning – mental retardations, difficulties with memory and concentration, difficulty of abstract thinking, organization of activities, problems and impaired thinking of cause and effect, speech disorders.
- Behavior disorders – difficulty of adaptation, withdrawal and isolation, problems with organization and responsibilities.
Please note, that for children with FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome) and FAE (fetal alcohol effect) early diagnosis and appropriate treatment and rehabilitation activities are very important.
So far it has not been specifically researched what dose of alcohol can have an adverse effect on the developing fetus. Therefore, all pregnant women should be advised to completely resign form drinking alcohol. Moreover, alcohol also damages the process of spermatogenesis – DNA in the sperm has a smaller molecular weight, which may indicate a mutagenic effect. Due to the fact that the sperm maturation process takes about 70 days, it is also important to future dads to refrain for this time from drinking alcohol, for the sake of good quality of transferred genetic material.
Remember that the damage caused by fetal alcohol consumption can be prevented – just do not drink alcohol during the pregnancy.
- Information from Mazovia Centre of Social Policy.
- “Embryology” A.M. H. Bartel, Wydawnictwo Lekarskie, Warsaw, 2010.