Drinking too much – whether this is on a single occasion or over an extended period of time – can take a serious toll on your body. When you are pregnant, the risks are significantly multiplied, as the alcohol that you drink will be passed on to your baby. To keep yourself and your unborn child safe, it is important that you know the risks and just how much alcohol you can have when you are expecting.
Alcohol Use Recommendations during Pregnancy
At this point, the research regarding the amount of alcohol that is safe to consume during pregnancy is varied. No one knows exactly what potentially harmful effects, even a small amount of alcohol could have, on a developing baby.
For this reason, all U.S. public health officials, including those in Minneapolis, recommend that all pregnant women play it safe and avoid alcohol completely. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agree and also recommend that women who are trying to conceive also abstain from drinking alcohol.
- How Much is Too Much? – The harm of drinking during pregnancy.
- Light Drinking – Is it safe to drink in moderation during pregnancy?
Alcohol and Your Unborn Baby’s Health
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is extremely dangerous, as the alcohol in your blood will quickly pass through the umbilical cord and placenta to your baby. Since the placenta supplies your baby with oxygen and food via the umbilical cord, drinking any amount of alcohol throughout pregnancy could impact your baby’s developing brain and other vital systems. The result could be several problems regarding your unborn baby’s health:
- Premature birth. Alcohol use during pregnancy increases the chance that a baby is born before 37-weeks gestational age. Premature babies tend to have more serious health problems both at birth, and as they get older.
- Low birth weight. Premature babies are more likely to be born underweight, but even full-term babies could be born under 5 pounds, 8 ounces if their mothers drink during pregnancy.
- Medical problems. A variety of medical issues can result from drinking during pregnancy, including brain damage, heart defects, vision problems, hearing problems, and other birth defects.
- Fetal alcohol syndrome. Children with FAS can have a variety of problems, including developmental and intellectual disabilities as well as physical developmental delays. FAS is a lifelong condition, and binge drinking during pregnancy increases the chances of a baby being born with FAS.
- Miscarriage and stillbirth. In the most severe of cases, a baby may not even survive as a result of drinking during pregnancy.
The more that you drink during pregnancy, the greater the risk is that your baby will experience one of these adverse health effects.
- Alcohol during Pregnancy – The March of Dimes examines the risk of drinking on an unborn baby.
- Giving Up Alcohol during Pregnancy – Tips on how and why to stop drinking during pregnancy.
- Pregnancy and Substance Abuse – The Minnesota Department of Health outlines the dangers of substance abuse while pregnant.
Other Risks Associated with Alcohol Use
While drinking during pregnancy can certainly lead to a variety of problems with your baby, there are other risks that you will also want to consider:
- Health of the mother. People who drink alcohol heavily are at a greater risk of developing problems like heart disease, liver disease, stroke, depression, sleep disorders, and various types of cancer.
- Injuries. Drinking too much alcohol will increase your risk of being injured. Alcohol is involved in 40% of all car accidents and suicides, 50% of sexual assaults and severe trauma injuries, and 60% of homicides and drowning deaths.
- Legal troubles. The legal drinking limit in Minneapolis and the rest of Minnesota is a BAC of .08. If you make the mistake of drinking alcohol and driving, you could find yourself arrested for drunk driving. You’ll need a good DWI defense attorney, which can be expensive, and you’ll be at risk of jail time and considerable fines.
In addition to these risks, you are also at a greater risk of suffering financial and relationship problems when you drink excessively.
- Dangers of Alcohol – Exploring the dangers of alcohol on pregnant women.
- Health Risks of Drinking – The many health risks associated with drinking alcohol.
- Resources for Pregnant Women – Information from the American Congress of OB/GYNs about pregnancy and alcohol.
Getting Help for Your Alcohol Problem during Pregnancy
If you are pregnant and are having a difficult time giving up alcohol, there are a variety of options out there that can help:
- Contact your local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous
- Call your local county human services department for information on substance abuse resources in your community.
- Talk to your OB/GYN or another healthcare provider about available treatment options in your area
- Call your local crisis intervention helpline for guidance
If you need help quitting drinking, don’t delay in seeking out assistance. The health and future of your unborn baby could depend on it.
- Getting Help – Resources for pregnant women who need help to quit drinking.