No alcohol during pregnancy, say experts

December 1, 2015 Providence Health Team

No amount of alcohol is safe to drink while pregnant. Not a glass. Not a sip. Not even once in a while. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Drinking even small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy can lead to:

  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Premature birth
  • Sudden infant death syndrome

Furthermore, exposing a fetus to alcohol during pregnancy can affect the developing brain, heart, bones, spine and kidneys, and vision and hearing, according to the AAP report. The result can be devastating, affecting an individual throughout his or her life.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

The term “fetal alcohol spectrum disorders,” or FASDs, describes conditions that an individual can have as a result of a mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy. The signs and symptoms of FASDs range from mild to severe, and they include a combination of physical, emotional, behavioral and learning problems. Individuals exposed to alcohol while still in the womb also have a higher incidence of attention deficit disorder.

What do FASDs look like?

  • Abnormal facial features, such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip
  • Small head size
  • Shorter-than-average height
  • Low body weight
  • Poor coordination

FASDs can affect:

  • Language
  • Visual-spatial functioning
  • Impulse control
  • Information processing
  • Memory skills
  • Problem solving
  • Abstract reasoning
  • Auditory comprehension

How common are FASDs?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least one infant in 1,000 live births is diagnosed with FAS. Although few estimates for the number of children with the full range of FASDs are available, community studies that rely on physical examinations reveal that as high as two to five per 100 school-age children (or 2 percent to 5 percent of the population) in the U.S. have the full range of FASDs.

There is no cure

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders last a lifetime. Although there is no cure, identifying children with FASDs as early as possible and providing some type of treatment, such as therapy and parent training, can help them develop through childhood and reach their full potential as adults.

The CDC considers the following “protective factors” essential to helping individuals with FASDs:

  • Diagnosing FASDs before age 6
  • Providing a loving, nurturing and stable home environment during the school years
  • Absence of violence in the home
  • Involvement in special education and social services

FASDs are preventable. If you’re pregnant, or think you’re pregnant, avoid alcohol. Even if you’re trying to get pregnant, experts recommend avoiding all alcohol as a pregnancy can go undetected for up to four to six weeks.

If you think you’re pregnant, or trying to get pregnant and have questions, contact a Providence provider.

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