You do not need to be an alcoholic to give birth to a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome. The effects of alcohol in the first month of pregnancy are not specifically known, but the medical community as a whole recommends avoiding alcohol during the entire term of the pregnancy.
Alcohol In Pregnancy
Although the specific effects of alcohol in the first month of pregnancy are not known, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that there is no safe amount or type of alcohol or any safe time to consume it during pregnancy. Most people understand that heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause a number of conditions associated with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), but they may not realize that even moderate or light consumption can lead to birth defects.
Any alcohol consumed by a pregnant woman is passed to the fetus through the placenta. Since the fetus is still developing, it takes much longer for it to break down the alcohol. This leads to blood alcohol levels that are higher than normal for a longer period of time than the mother experienced. Because of this, the effects of the alcohol in the baby's bloodstream are amplified resulting in a higher likelihood of complications. Since the placenta is just starting to develop and is very immature during the first month of pregnancy, this could result in an even longer exposure to the alcohol by the fetus.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
A wide range of conditions caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Characteristics of a child suffering from FASD can include:
- Kidney, heart, hearing and vision problems
- Trouble suckling and sleeping in babies
- Low body weight and short stature
- Smaller-then-normal head size
- Abnormal facial features
- Poor coordination
- Short attention span
- Memory issues
- Learning disabilities, particularly in math subjects
- Low IQ
- Delays in speech and language
- Poor reasoning and judgment skills
While problems stemming from brain damage, as well as growth and central nervous system issues, can occur from alcohol consumption at any time during the pregnancy, drinking during the first trimester can specifically cause abnormal facial features.
The Reality Is In the Numbers
Studies have proven that drinking alcohol during the first 37 weeks of pregnancy significantly increase the risk of miscarriage and premature birth. A 2008 study showed that binge drinking three or more times per week during the first four months of pregnancy increases the risk of stillbirth by 56 percent. Other studies have showed that women that consume five or more alcoholic drinks per week are 70 times more likely to have a stillborn child than women who did not consume alcohol.
If you are trying to conceive, are pregnant or if there is a possibility you are pregnant, the only way to prevent any of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders with absolute certainty is to abstain from alcohol until the baby is born. If you are pregnant and are consuming alcohol, remember that it is never too late to stop.