One of the most popular questions I receive from my patients and friends regarding what you can and cannot do during pregnancy is, “Can I drink alcohol?…Even a little?” I emphatically say, “No.”
I have always explained that we know that large amounts of alcohol can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a specific cluster of birth defects, physical and mental, resulting from heavy amounts of alcohol exposure in utero.
At the same time, what we did not know is what small amounts of alcohol did to a developing fetus. It is this lack of knowledge that led many expectant mothers to justify drinking small amounts. My rebuttal was actually based on the same lack of evidence; the fact that we do not know is precisely why you should not take the risk.
What if a few cocktails made the difference between your kid going to Harvard or not? Why would you even chance it? I mean, I like a glass of wine as much as the next girl, but it is only forty weeks of your life and being a mother is all about sacrifice, so you may as well start learning how to do that during pregnancy.
Recent surveys show that about half of all childbearing age women in the United States report consuming alcohol within the past month, and nearly eight percent of women said that they continued to consume alcohol during pregnancy. That is one in twelve women!
I am ecstatic that this week the American Academy of Pediatrics released a study to support my advice. It concludes that prenatal exposure to alcohol can damage the developing fetus and is the leading preventable cause of physical birth defects and intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities. They describe that beyond the known Fetal Alcohol Syndrome are Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). This is an all-encompassing term for the range of effects that can occur in someone whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. Any alcohol!
These problems can range from physical defects to mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. In addition, fetuses exposed have a 95% lifetime likelihood to experience mental health issues, and among the most prevalent are anxiety and mood disorders, particularly depression, as well as ADHD, substance use, addiction, and suicide.
In other words, absolutely no amount of alcohol in pregnancy is safe. They conclude that during pregnancy:
-No amount of alcohol intake should be considered safe;
-There is no safe trimester to drink alcohol;
-All forms of alcohol, such as beer, wine, and liquor, pose similar risk;
-Binge drinking poses dose-related risk to the developing fetus (meaning the more you drink the worst off the fetus may be).
Therefore, drinking alcohol should be avoided throughout. As soon as you get that positive pregnancy test or if you even suspect you may be, cheer to a healthy baby by putting your glass down!