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Risks of Drinking While Pregnant


Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can have serious effects on an unborn child. Consumption of alcohol by pregnant individuals can lead to a range of physical and developmental issues in their babies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified that about 1 in 1,000 births will have fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). The CDC also notes that “there is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant.” Therefore, to protect the health of their developing baby, it is essential that expecting individuals abstain from drinking during pregnancy.

Alcohol in general can be harmful to all individuals despite being pregnant or not. Excessive drinking overtime can lead to development to chronic diseases and problems including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease, stroke, liver disease
  • Weak immune system
  • Dementia
  • Mental health problems including depression and anxiety
  • Alcohol use disorders

In severe cases, binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning and cause death. Alcohol poisoning can shutdown areas of the brain that control breathing, heart rate, and body temperature.

Dangers of Drinking While Pregnant

Alcohol includes all wines, wine coolers, beer, and liquor. Alcohol in the pregnant person’s blood is passed to the baby through the umbilical cord and can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, as well as brain damage and other lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities in the developing fetus. Collectively, these disabilities are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs)

FASDs can produce physical problems in people and cause issues with behavior and learning. Oftentimes, a person diagnosed with FASD has a mixture of these issues. To avoid and prevent FASDs, a person who is pregnant or might be pregnant should avoid alcohol. A pregnant person may not know they are carrying for up to four to six weeks. Should the pregnant person unknowingly drink alcohol while pregnant, stopping alcohol use immediately after becoming aware of the pregnancy is the best course of action.

A person with FASD may have the following:

  • Low body weight and shorter-than-average height
  • Poor coordination
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Poor memory
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech and language delays
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Problems with their heart, kidneys, or bones
  • Abnormal facial features

FASD is an umbrella term for a range of physical, cognitive, and behavioral disorders due to prenatal alcohol exposure and effects ranging from mild to severe. FASD can be further broken into the following disorders:

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
  • Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS)
  • Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)
  • Alcohol-related Birth defects (ARBD)
  • Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (ND-PAE)

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

FAS is on the most severe end of the FASD spectrum. This disorder describes people with the greatest alcohol effects described in the following areas:

  • Three specific facial abnormalities
    • Smooth philtrum (area between the nose and upper lip)
    • Thin upper lip
    • Small palpebral fissures (horizontal eye openings)
  • Growth deficit in height and/or weight
  • Central nervous system (CNS) abnormalities

Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS)

When a person does not meet the full diagnostic criteria for FAS but has a history of prenatal alcohol exposure and has some of the facial abnormalities, growth problems, and CNS deficiencies, they are considered to have partial FAS.

Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)

People with ARND do not have growth problems or abnormal facial features. However, they can experience irregular brain and nervous system formation and impaired function. As a result, individuals with ARND may have intellectual disabilities, behavior or learning problems, and nerve or brain abnormalities.

Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD)

People with ARBD typically have problems with how some of their organs were formed and how they function. Possible organ issues may include:

  • Heart
  • Kidney
  • Bones (spine)
  • Hearing and vision.

In addition to organ function issues, these individuals may also have one of the other FASDs.

Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (ND-PAE)

Individuals with ND-PAE have impairment of neurocognition (thinking and reasoning), self-regulation, and adaptive functioning (independence compared to others of a similar age and background). People with ND-PAE have evidence of prenatal alcohol exposure and experience symptoms at the onset of childhood which might include significant distress or impairment in social, academic, occupational, and other areas of daily life.

Alcoholism & Pregnancy

What to Do if You Can’t Stop Drinking

If you are pregnant and cannot stop drinking, it is time to get help. Contact your healthcare provider or a local alcohol treatment center. Our staff at The Carter Treatment Center understands the stresses associated with alcoholism and how it can impact you and your loved ones.

Seeking professional help for alcoholism is an important step for individuals struggling with alcohol addiction. Our professional support and guidance can provide clients suffering from alcoholism with the coping tools and resources necessary to manage their addiction and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Our treatment programs offer unique treatment plans that can help individuals develop the skills needed to recognize their triggers and begin the journey toward recovery. With dedicated support from our team, family members, and friends, those suffering from alcoholism can have a chance of regaining control of their lives.

If you have questions about alcoholism or substance addiction, call today at (678) 737-4430 or contact us online for a free consultation.