The presence of alcohol in this day and age is an unabating companion at social gatherings, celebration dinners, and relaxing evenings on the backyard deck. Alcohol is as much a part of the party as the people and the community we experience when we get together with friends and family.
That is why so many women find it hard to stop enjoying the taste of a cold beer or a nice glass of wine even though they know they are pregnant, or suspect they might be. The social implications, the “relaxation factor”, and just the “why not”, all point to the reasons that many women drink while pregnant. Many women don’t think about the very real possibility of FAS, otherwise known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
It’s important for you to know the dangers you are exposing your unborn child to when you consume alcohol when you’re pregnant - at any stage of the journey - and it’s also crucial that you consider these dangers and whether they are really worth the chance you are taking.
8 When you drink, your baby does too
Picture this, you are having a drink or two or three, and so is your baby. It’s proven that alcohol passes through the placenta to the fetus. That is why doctors recommend so highly that you not consume alcohol when pregnant, and just as importantly, when you are trying to conceive. It’s not safe at any point to have even just one drink when you are expecting a baby.
Alcohol easily crosses the placenta and concentrates in the amniotic fluid and the blood. The pleasure you are getting from drinking is causing changes in hormones, proteins, and neurotransmitters that directly affect the brain of your unborn baby.
7 Why take the risk
Another thought that is rather sobering (no pun intended), is that when you drink alcohol, you are directly hindering the amount of oxygen your baby needs for optimum growth.
Hypoxia, which is the medical term for deficiency of oxygen reaching tissues, will directly affect your developing baby and cause serious consequences. Prolonged inadequacies of oxygen intake can result in changes to heart function and structure, for example, and these changes can persist right into adulthood. Changes to the developing brain are documented, too.
In reality, your child’s brain could be physically smaller than normal, and there could be damage to the framework, affecting coordination, balance, and communication between the right and left halves of the brain. With important developmental factors like these to consider, why take the risk?
6 The conditions are called FASD’s
There are three terms which describe the conditions in the fetal alcohol spectrum, that can happen to your child if you drink while pregnant.
ARBD - This refers to alcohol related birth defects that will mean abnormalities in heart and skeletal formation, kidney related issues, and sight and hearing problems.
ARND - These are alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders that will affect your child’s judgement, impulse control and memory. Many other intellectual traits could be altered as well.
FAS - Communication difficulties, learning deficits, and abnormal facial features are just three of the markers for fetal alcohol syndrome. Fetal death is a legitimate risk you take too, when you do not change your drinking habits even though you are carrying a child.
5 What will fetal alcohol syndrome mean for your child
Infants with fetal alcohol syndrome will face challenges like poor sucking ability, sleep cycle disturbances (which will also be hard on you, mom), and extreme sensitivity to noises, touch and light.
Memory issues, a lack of understanding of boundaries, clinginess, and an insufficient understanding of dangers,along with a sense of no fear will face the toddler living with FAS.
As your child grows and goes to school, he will have problems with motor skills. In middle school his self esteem could suffer greatly because he will recognize that he is different from his friends. Teens often display inappropriate behaviors, and act out because they have a lack of impulse control.
Verbal learning, recall, reaction time and organizational skills are more intellectual trials that a child with FAS will encounter. Health problems like hearing disabilities and bone issues, and physical traits, such as being smaller than normal and having facial differences from other kids will wear on him, too.
4 Ways to help the small child with FAS
Infants will benefit from frequent holding to satisfy their need for constant contact. At home, keep the lights low and have soothing music playing to allow them a calm environment.
Your baby could have delays when learning to crawl due to lack of coordination and poor muscle tone. He may have frequent ear infections and hearing disabilities. For your sake, and the sake of your little one, find an occupational therapist and a speech therapist, who will train you how to help your child in his speech and language development.
Read to your child often, and speaking clearly and directly to him are key ways to help him develop speech.
A toddler will need assistance with his motor development. Again, seek out therapists who can advise you on toys geared towards your child’s individual deficits, and meet with those who can suggest how to design the best home environment for your child. Stability and routine are what the FAS child needs.
Mealtime is a big part of each day; keep the atmosphere quiet and conducive to eating, include family interaction, but without multiple conversations and discussion at the same time, and bear in mind that the FAS child could very likely have a sensitivity to textures and tastes, making understanding on your part an important part of every meal.
3 The older FAS child needs you too
School age kids benefit from repetition and activities that do not go on for long periods of time. You will need to learn how to handle their temper tantrums, and carefully, but consistently, teach them that there will be consequences for unacceptable behavior.
If there is a huge issue with attention deficit, you can speak to your pediatrician or therapist about medicinal intervention.
Teens can experience depression, bouts of lying, and antisocial behavior. Many adolescents who have FAS act out by stealing and making friends with unsuitable people. Family counseling is often necessary and will help you grow as a unit while assisting your child in dealing with the differences he faces from other kids his age.
2 What is the role of the father in FAS
It has long been known that a father who drinks heavily will have a genetic and influential impact on his children. Scientists have also been considering the effects that the father can have on a child in regards to fetal alcohol syndrome.
Of course, men who like to drink on a regular basis could have a negative impact on moms-to-be in that they don’t want to lose their favorite drinking partner, and therefore, may not be supportive in her decision to not drink when pregnant, and also while trying to conceive.
While there is not as much documentation available, and certainly not as much importance is placed on the role of dads and spectrum disorders under the fetal alcohol syndrome umbrella, studies done over 50 years ago found that children of fathers who abuse alcohol show learning, language, and temperamental issues different from those kids whose dads who do not partake in drinking.
Yet the complications that can arise for a child of a dad who drank while trying to conceive a child are still not frequently talked about.
It’s not easy to influence a partner not to drink, the choice has to be their own, but the example set by you as you refrain from indulging in alcohol for the sake of your future children can never be a bad thing.
1 No amount of alcohol is a good amount at any time
As a woman carrying the precious cargo of a baby in the womb, you must make serious considerations to not drink while pregnant. We know that alcohol affects people differently, some have a higher tolerance than others for booze, and this can indeed carry over to how alcohol can affect one baby to another.
You may have had a friend who drank all through her pregnancy with no ill effects (evident yet, that is), but that does not mean the same for you. Fetal alcohol syndrome and the degrees of severity can change from child to child, even within the same family.
While breastfeeding is another time that having a glass of wine or your favorite cocktail must be considered; alcohol can pass through breast milk too, but to be noted is that milk production can be reduced and the odor of the milk can change, both factors possibly influencing how much milk your child has available and will drink.