10 Damaging Side-effects of Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy

Now that you’re pregnant, you might end up wondering if it's alright for you to sip on champagne or have a small glass of merlot. No matter who you ask, there’s a good chance that you'll receive advice that is nothing but confusing. First, we have doctors who think pregnant women should completely avoid drinking all through their pregnancy. However, there are those too who believe light drinking isn’t going to harm your baby.

It's a known fact that heavy drinking can have serious effects – both short and long-term- on the development and well-being of your baby. The effects triggered by the consumption of smaller amounts of alcohol haven’t really been recognized, but no matter the effect, there's no denying the fact that a woman who drinks during pregnancy may harm her developing baby. Here’s how:

10 Stillbirth

Research studies have suggested that women who continue to drink during pregnancy face an exceptionally high risk of having a stillborn baby. This risk is believed to be higher amidst women who continue to have more than three alcoholic drinks a week or have two or more binge drinking (more than five alcoholic drinks) episodes in the first 16 weeks of their pregnancy.

The message that is obvious in all of these research findings is that alcohol and pregnancy are not a good mix. Drinking when pregnant doesn’t only put your pregnancy at risk – it also puts your developing baby at risk of several seriously hazardous outcomes. Drinking really isn’t worth it when you’re expecting!

9 You Can Have a Miscarriage

Even the smallest amount of alcohol that is consumed during pregnancy can increase your chances of having a miscarriage. In order to back this claim, data was acquired by researchers from nearly 93,000 pregnant women. For the record, all of these women were part of the Danish National Birth Cohort from 1996 to 2003. Their research found that women who have two drinks a week have a higher risk of having a miscarriage than women who do not consume alcohol during pregnancy.

The most interesting aspect of this research was that not a single ‘safe’ lower limit of alcohol could be identified by the researchers. For this reason, it's largely believed that having even a single drink a week can trigger a miscarriage. The risk is seriously not worth it and adds to the reasons why you should avoid consuming alcohol while pregnant.

8 Your Drinking Habits may Lead You to Having a ‘Depressed’ Child

That’s right – consuming alcohol can actually increase the risk of your baby suffering from depression later on in life. According to research, just drinking a single bottle of wine a week in the first trimester has the potential to double the chances of the baby becoming depressed or anxious later in life. The risk, as expected, continues to increase if the mother drinks more than this.

Research suggests that consuming alcohol on a regular basis during pregnancy can make your baby far more prone to experiencing general aches and pains all through his life. Researchers like Colleen O’Leary suggest that the danger of exhibiting behavioral problems tends to increase the more that mother’s drink. The worst part is that there are various behavioral issues that can be triggered in children born to women who consume alcohol during pregnancy.

7 Your Child may Become Unruly Later in Life

Research studies have shown that babies born to women who consume alcohol during pregnancy are more likely to be unruly, overly aggressive and badly behaved later on in life. Experts claim that the risk of exhibiting anti-social behavior tends to rise threefold amongst 16-year-olds whose mothers had just one alcoholic drink a day during the first trimester of their pregnancy.

Through research, the risk of having long-term bad-behavior patterns was found to be fairly high in youngsters born to women who had one or more drinks a day all through their pregnancy. To put it in simple words, research has concluded that children who are born to women who continue to drink even after finding out about their pregnancy are at higher risk of facing behavioral problems all through their lives, particularly during their teenage years.

6 Placental Problems May Arise

The consumption of even moderate amounts of alcohol during pregnancy, particularly in its early stages, has the potential to damage your placenta. Upon conducting several laboratory tests, it was found by experts that even moderate drinking could reduce or deter cell growth within the placenta. For the purpose of this study, they defined the term ‘moderate drinking’ as having two to three drinks on a daily basis – on the other hand, four to six drinks a day was considered in the ‘heavy’ drinking criteria.

This research also brought scientists to the fact that moderate to heavy drinking during pregnancy reduces the amount of taurine – an important amino acid – that is delivered from the mother to the baby via the placenta. For the record, taurine plays a vital role in the development of a baby’s brain and body.

This research further goes on to suggest that women who wish to conceive should stop drinking right now. This is because the damage caused by alcohol tends to happen very early on in a pregnancy – that too at a time when the woman may not even know that she is pregnant.


One condition that most people are now aware of is FAS or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. To put it in simple terms, this condition tends to impact the development of a baby’s brain. The severity of the condition is somehow dependent upon the amount of alcohol that is consumed by a mother during pregnancy. According to statistics from a study conducted in the USA in 2005, one in every 1,000 children is known to be born with FAS.

Children who are born with FAS basically have severe problems with their neurological development. They have characteristic facial features that are triggered by their exposure to alcohol in the womb together with abnormal growth. Children with FAS have characteristic facial features such as a small head, narrow eyes, a thin upper lip and a smooth area between the nose and the lips. Other problems may include:

  • Epilepsy
  • Hearing problems
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Kidney and heart defects
  • Liver damage etc.

4 Low Birth Weight and Preterm Birth

Experts have also come to the conclusion that heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy has the potential to increase the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight and even small size for gestational age. If this is something that you do not want to experience, then staying away from alcohol is what you need to do.

It was found through research that compared to mothers who don’t drink, those who have about 1.5 drinks a day do not have any increased risk of having a preterm birth. However, those who have about 3 drinks or more on a daily basis had a 23% higher risk of having a preterm birth. It is for reasons such as these that women are highly recommended by experts to maintain a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy and refrain from the consumption of alcohol.

3 You may Find it Hard to Bond with or Breastfeed Your Baby

Mums who continue to drink during pregnancy and after delivering their baby are known to have trouble in terms of bonding with and/or breastfeeding their babies. What’s worse is that drinking while nursing can pass alcohol into the breast milk as well. Although the full extent of how much it may harm your baby is not known, there is still the chance that your baby’s development and well-being will get affected by it.

2 Epilepsy

Research conducted at Queens University in Ontario, Canada shows that women who continue to drink in heavy amounts during pregnancy put their babies at risk of epilepsy. Researchers found that children born with a condition caused by exposure to alcohol in the womb are more likely to suffer from debilitating seizures. For the purpose of this research, they looked at 425 people between the ages of two and 49 and suffered from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. It was found that around1 percent of people develop epilepsy, but 6 percent of those with FASD had it and 12 percent had experienced at least one seizure.

1 Sleep-related Issues

Many children whose mothers continued to consume alcohol during pregnancy have long-standing sleep disturbances. These disturbances disrupt their lives to the point that they find it hard to focus on their daily activities and have trouble with cognition, management, health and overall behavior. For reasons such as these, it is best for you to stay away from alcohol both during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.


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