Sunday, November 27, 2011

Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy

Many women don’t realize that they are pregnant until weeks or even months into their pregnancy. This means that during this time they are still going about their lives in the way that they normally would if they were not pregnant. In some cases this includes bad habits, such as, excessively drinking, smoking, doing drugs and even simple things like eating unhealthily. When women drink during their pregnancy some of the alcohol is getting passed to the fetus who cannot metabolize it the same way that a grown person can. “The alcohol level of the baby's blood can be higher and remain elevated longer than the level in the mother's blood.” (1) This can have side effects not only during the pregnancy, but also after the baby is born and for the rest of its life.
The different side effects that are associated with drinking during pregnancy are classified as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) which are during the pregnancy, and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) which is after the child is born. There are many side effects, either physical or mental, that go along with each of these disorders. Some of the more common characteristics of babies with FAS are smaller eyes, smaller brain size, they do not have the groove above their lip, they have smaller body size, they have poor coordination, and may have different emotional or mental problems. (1) All of these side effects can be caused by different ranges of drinking. So how many drinks are too many?
Some doctors say that it is alright to drink in moderation during your pregnancy, as long as you are not going overboard with it. So, maybe a couple drinks during the week aren’t too bad? However, there are no studies that show that this can actually be good for the fetus. It is hard to find studies that show exactly how many drinks can cause specific birth defects, obviously due to moral and ethical reasons. Another aspect that made studies harder to compare to each other is the way that they collected their information was not consistent among the studies.
One study that I found was done Missouri from 1989-1997 on women who were at least twenty weeks pregnant or farther along. This study was mainly to track the relationship between drinking and the amount of stillbirths in among these women. The stillbirth rate that they discovered was that for every 1000 pregnancies 5.3 resulted in stillbirths. This study also found that if you drink you are 40% more likely to have a stillbirth and if you drink more than five alcoholic drinks per week you are 70% more likely to have a still birth. (2)
Even though there are studies that show that drinking moderately can have little to no effect on your child and there are some that show that they have serious outcomes, it is ultimately your personal choice on if you want to drink during your pregnancy. People can risk it and drink every now and then, but everyone should be aware of all the side effects and how they are gambling with their child’s life and well-being. So are a couple drinks really worth it?

(1) Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy. (November, 2008). March of Dimes.


  1. I can see this a being a very controversial topic were debates would quickly become heated on both sides. Like you said some women do not realize that they are pregnant until later in their pregnancy after bad habits have already caused long term effects for the child. I would think that the earlier in the pregnancy a mother drinks excessively the worse the effects will be because of the fragile state of the embryo. Also because the major developments are just starting and given a bad start they will probably not mature properly. Is there any way to test this in animals to see if alcohol has an effect on their off spring, and if so does the time in the pregnancy alcohol is consumed have any effect?

  2. I know heard that wine is an appropriate alcoholic drink during pregnancy is this true?

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  4. I heard pregnant women who are heavy smokers shouldn't stop cold turkey when they find out they are pregnant and should gradually stop smoking instead. I wonder if this is the same with alcoholics when they find out they are pregnant?
    I also think it's really sad that women intentionally drink when they know they're pregnant. When I lived in Texas we legally had to serve alcoholic drinks to pregnant women if they ordered them, which I didn't agree with. It's sad to think how easily some birth defects could be prevented just by being responsible during pregnancy.

  5. Great information on alcohol use and its effect on the fetus. I'm wondering if you didn't choose to discuss as much about tobacco or the effect of other drugs because there is not as much research done regarding? Or because drugs like weed and tobacco aren't as damaging to the baby as alcohol is? I am just curious about what you noticed while gathering research.

  6. It’s crazy that you see women smoking and drinking all the time that are pregnant. I do not think they truly know about not drinking or smoking or moderately, because even I didn't know that moderate drinking could cause harm. Great information!

  7. I really like how you explained everything in detail. I was shocked the part where you said that some doctors think it is alright to drink moderately while pregnant. I have never heard that before. I also keep in mind, that during pregnancy, when you are eating or drinking something, your baby will eat and drink the same stuff. So, most parents would not want their child to drink alcohol while being a fetus.

  8. I found it shocking that some doctors do not care if you have a few drinks while pregnant. To me, that is just like feeding a fetus alcohol which is obviously wrong. It is sad to think about but unfortunately some people go a long time without knowing they are pregnant and they cannot control what they had consumed and passed onto the baby. I thought it was a very interesting topic as well!

  9. @Amanda: I couldn't find anything on animal testing being done in the past to see the effects of alcohol on their offspring. In my opinion, I would hope that they would not be doing this specific testing on animals for the same reason that there hasn't been much research on humans. Also, from what I found it's hard to relate the timing of the drinking during pregnancy to the defects that any of the children had. There are so many different factors that go into drinking, such as the type of alcohol you were consuming, whether it was straight liquor, beer or wine, so this kind of plays a role in it too. Sorry, I can't really answer your questions that well, but I will look into it some more and get back to you.

    @dcheathe: I know people firsthand who have been told by their doctors that an occasional glass of wine was ok for you to drink, but I don't think that it necessarily means it is good for you in any way. From what I found, articles made it seem that if you were to drink at all, that a glass of wine once a week was ok, but I didn't find anything that showed that any alcohol consumption during pregnancy was 100% risk free.

    @Anne: I never really found anything when I was researching that mentioned people who are alcoholics, that it was good for them to still ahve a drink. I don't know if doctors would be telling them that they should still drink while pregnant because it can be so damaging to the fetus, so they probably don't want to tell an alcoholic to continnue drinking, if that makes sense? I definetly agree with you though, about how easily it would be to prevent birth defects by not drinking. I just feel that as a mother, you would want the best for the child that you're bringing into the world and you wouldn't want to risk their health for anything. I don't think drinking at all is worth taking those chances.

    @Shawn: Thank you, and I was going to talk about the use of drugs and alcohol during pregnancy, but there was so much information I decided to only make it drinking. I felt like drinking was a lot more common that people using drugs during pregnancy (this is just in my opinion) so I thought that I would be able to find out more information and studies on that. It was hard to find reliable studies that have been done for drinking because, since drinking is frowned upon during pregnancy, people probably don't want to admit how much they really drank, and I thought that this would be more so with drugs. I found that the "harder" drugs have a more serious side effects, but they didn't mention any studies that were done on humans.

    @Lindsay: Thanks so much, I definetly don't agree with drinking during pregnancy either. When I was doing my research I thought that it was kind of crazy that they largest age group of people who drank during pregnancy was 35-44. I was expecting it to be the younger people in their 20's because I thought that they would be less responsible or care free, so I was suprised by that. (Just a little tid bit for you)


  10. I havent read everything that was commented yet but this is really interesting. People with alcohol problems usually has a relative with the same problem. Are children who were born while there mother was drinking a lot more likely to have an alcohol problem when older

  11. Many have already said this but no, it's not worth it to drink while pregnant. It's 9 months, responsible women should be able to sacrifice their indulgences for the sake of their child. I think it's ridiculous that this is even a problem. I suppose it's different if there's an addiction involved but then medical help should be sought.