By Dr Sujit Paul
‘Smoking and drinking is injurious to health’ is something we all have heard. This suggestion is applicable to everyone irrespective of their gender. But women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should avoid drinking as it can cause serious health issues for the baby. Even consuming a glass of wine on a regular basis can increase the chances of several mental, developmental and emotional disorders in the unborn fetus. Once a woman discovers she is expecting, she should refrain from drinking.
Why alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy
If a woman consumes any kind of alcoholic drink, the liquor in blood swiftly passes the placenta and the umbilical cord to the baby. The placenta grows in uterus and supplies food and oxygen via the umbilical cord. Drinking any amount of alcohol can harm a baby’s growing and developing brain with other organs. No amount of liquor is safe at any time of pregnancy. Alcohol can harm and create problems any time during the pregnancy even before you know you are expecting. You may have conceived and wouldn’t know for 4 to 6 weeks.
In a survey, around 11 per cent of pregnant women had alcohol in the last 30 days while more than three per cent of women agreed to binge drinking. Women with binge drinking reported about drinking 4.6 times in a month than non-pregnant females who drank 3.1 times in the same time frame. Approximately 3.3 million women between 15 to 44 years of age are at the risk of an unborn child due to heavy drinking habits. Most of them admitted about drinking when they are sexually active and did not use any birth control. Four out of five women did not stop alcohol consumption once they stopped using birth control. In another study, it was found that more than 85 per cent females who used to drink prior conceiving quit after getting pregnant while eight per cent reduced the alcohol amount while seven per cent did not change the liquor habit and amount.
Effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy
Alcohol consumption during pregnancy might increase the chances of below-mentioned issues:
Chances of premature birth: It happens when the baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy and babies have serious health issues at birth and later in life. It also results in brain damage and problems in growth & development.
Defects: Birth defects such as heart defects, hearing issues or vision troubles are health conditions that are present in the child since birth. These issues can change shape or functions of one or more parts of the body. It can also affect the overall health, body’s development and functioning.
FASDs: Child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder might have to face certain problems such as intellectual and developmental disabilities. It affects the working of the brain, troubles in communicating, learning, understanding and getting along with others. FASDs also delays or create problems in physical development and can last for a lifetime. Continuous drinking increases the chances of FASDs in pregnant women. It also includes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS), Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD).
Low birth weight: This is the most common where born baby weighs less than five pounds, eight ounces. Chances of miscarriage are high where a baby in womb dies before 20 weeks of pregnancy. In worst conditions, stillbirth can also occur where a baby dies after 20 weeks of pregnancy in womb.
Effects of liquor on mothers
Drinking alcohol in childbearing age is a health concern for both the mother and the baby. If a woman consumes liquor during her pregnancy, chances of risking unborn baby’s health and her own body are high. Excessive consumption can result in miscarriage because of damage to the baby’s developing cells.
Physical risks include seizures, malnutrition, injuries, and sexually transmitted infections, cancer of mouth, liver, breast and oesophagus. Psychosocial problems are likely to occur such as depression, anxiety, work disability, sexual assault, suicide, domestic violence and child neglect or abuse.
How mom-to-be can keep their baby safe from alcohol during pregnancy?
To prevent the chances of FASDs and other health problems because of alcohol, pregnant ladies should avoid drinking. Even if you are trying to conceive, do not drink alcohol. Some women might drink in their entire pregnancy duration and have healthy babies while some females may take little alcohol and have a child with serious health concerns. It means every pregnancy is different and liquor might hurt the baby. The only way to keep a baby safe is not by consuming alcohol. Get your prenatal care regularly.
Instead of gulping alcohol, try fruit juices, coconut water or water. Avoid hanging out in parties where alcohol is served. Let you and your partner inform your friends that you are not consuming liquor during pregnancy. Ask for their help and support.
Before jumping to the conclusion of withdrawing, detox or joining rehab for alcohol, connect with your gynecologist and discuss your current alcohol consumption. The doctor will guide you through the resources after complete assessment.
(The writer is Managing Director, Stayhappi Pharmacy)