drinking alcohol during your pregnancy

How much alcohol is too much?

Experts have yet to determine what is a safe amount of alcohol to drink while you are pregnant. To be safe, it may be a good idea to avoid alcohol altogether.

Interestingly, women who are expecting often lose their taste for alcohol, so giving up might be easy even for regular drinkers. However, if you are still struggling to get your alcohol intake down to zero, here are some practical tips which may help you during pregnancy.

  • Opt for a mocktail
  • Drink juice when you are out partying
  • Invite your friends to your home rather than going out
  • If your other half enjoys a drink after work, ask him to switch to a non-alcoholic beverage so that you can join in as well

But what if you drink alcohol heavily during your pregnancy?

Your baby is developing and growing every day of your pregnancy. Whether it’s the head forming at Week 7, thumb sucking at Week 20, or practising breathing at Week 32, the changes that happen over this short period of 40 weeks are quite amazing.

At any stage of your pregnancy, drinking alcohol affects your baby’s development and can lead to the following:

In your first trimester (0-3 months):

  • Damage to the nervous system.
  • Structural abnormalities.
  • Spontaneous miscarriage.

In your second trimester (4 to 6 months):

  • Damage to the nervous system.
  • Continued risk of miscarriage.

In your third trimester (7 to 9 months):

  • Disruption of growth and development.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Minor abnormalities.

When you drink, alcohol reaches your unborn child’s bloodstream through the placenta. While your body can efficiently deal with alcohol, your baby’s growing system cannot. Because a fetus’ brain is developing very rapidly, this interrupts the formation of a complex system of cells in the brain.

Babies are at risk of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

Heavy drinking during pregnancy is associated with FAS, a disorder which occurs in infants. Babies with FAS have:

  • Low birth weight.
  • Diminished growth.
  • Poor fine motor coordination skills.
  • Low IQ.
  • Behavioural problems.
  • An increased risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Your doctor or specialist should know if your child has FAS through a series of physical examinations. There is currently no medical treatment for this disease, and the management of FAS lies in special education programmes and behaviour therapy for the child.

FAS is a tragic but preventable disorder. It can be avoided if you don’t consume any alcohol at all – while you’re pregnant or even if you are trying to get pregnant. If you think you may have an alcohol addiction, then you may want to think about getting help.

Drinking alcohol during breastfeeding

While drinking alcohol during breastfeeding may not cause Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, it does disrupt your baby’s healthy development. That’s because whatever you drink or eat passes to your child through breastmilk. Excessive alcohol use during nursing can also disrupt the flow of your breastmilk, so it’s best not to consume alcohol while breastfeeding.

Remember, during your pregnancy and while you are breastfeeding, you are the only source of nutrition for your baby. So eat and nourish yourself for a healthy baby.