Any amount of alcohol during pregnancy can harm the baby, study says

The consumption of alcohol during pregnancy is not advisable in any case. A recent study revealed that even small amounts of this substance can harm the baby. In fact, its effects can be very serious.

The intake of these beverages in pregnancy leads to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. This encompasses a set of conditions that cause physical and mental sequelae throughout life.

Furthermore, as an article published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exposes, alcohol passes from the mother's blood to the baby through the umbilical cord. Consequently, it increases the risk of stillbirth or miscarriage.

Is it safe to drink alcohol during pregnancy?

Until recently, there was some flexibility when it comes to drinking alcohol during pregnancy. In the past, studies have even been published stating that there did not seem to be any negative effect when mothers drank alcoholic beverages in the first three months of pregnancy.

Likewise, it was stated that, if drinks with a low concentration of alcohol and in reduced quantities were consumed, there was no effect on the baby's health. Several investigations agreed on these types of statements.

However, none of these studies could categorically state that there are no risks when consuming alcohol in pregnancy. The samples studied were limited and the methodologies were not always rigorous.

Therefore, these investigations do not provide enough evidence to make a responsible decision on this issue. When in doubt, it is clear that the best option is to abstain. In fact, a new study rethinks what has been said so far, as we will see shortly.

Also read: This happens to your body when you drink alcohol on an empty stomach

New studies say no

New research, conducted by the University of Sydney and published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, indicates that the consumption of any amount of alcohol during pregnancy is associated with behavioral and psychological effects in children.

In other words, there is no alcohol intake that can be considered "safe" at this stage. This is the first large study done on the effect of a low level of alcoholic beverages in pregnancy. He evaluated data from 9,719 cases to reach that conclusion.

Within the group studied, 60% of the children had been exposed to low alcohol consumption during pregnancy, while the remaining 40% came from mothers with higher intakes. The main conclusions in this regard are the following:

  • Children who had been exposed to low alcohol consumption, at any stage of pregnancy, presented more psychological, emotional and behavioral problems than those who had not been exposed to that substance.
  • There was a difference in the brain volume of children exposed to alcohol during pregnancy, compared to unexposed children.
  • The negative effects were seen even in children who had been exposed to low levels of alcohol consumption during the first seven weeks of pregnancy.
  • Obviously, the higher the alcohol consumption, the greater the risk of long-term negative effects.

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Possible Effects of Alcohol During Pregnancy

The first thing to keep in mind is that alcohol is a teratogenic agent. What does this mean? What it is a substance capable of generating anomalies. So not only does it cause a temporary condition, but it can cause long-term structural changes.

There is sufficient evidence that alcohol consumption during pregnancy can affect the heart, brain, normal growth, and facial features of the fetus. At the same time, increases the risk of developing fetal alcohol syndrome, a serious condition that, among others, could lead to the following consequences:

  • Neurological problems. It includes poor coordination, attention difficulties, poor memory and learning, language and speech delays, intellectual disability or low IQ, poor reasoning skills, and so on.
  • Psychiatric and behavioral problems.
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Heart, kidney, or bone abnormalities.
  • Anatomical abnormalities or deformities. It can be a ridge between the nose and the upper lip, small head, shorter than normal height, low body weight, among others.

On the other hand, as we have mentioned, alcohol intake during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage or preterm birth. The child of a mother who has consumed alcohol during pregnancy should be carefully evaluated by the pediatrician.

Seeking help is important

Now what has been suspected for a long time has been confirmed, "No level of alcohol is safe during pregnancy." For this reason, from the moment a woman plans to conceive a child, she must stop drinking alcohol.

If a woman is having trouble quitting, the right thing to do is ask for help to do so. There are groups like "Alcoholics Anonymous" that can be a great help. Consultation with a professional can also shed light on this.

The important thing is to keep in mind that ingesting this type of drink in pregnancy is very dangerous. As we have seen, it can have consequences that affect the child for life. Therefore, it is urgent to abandon this consumption.