Pregnancy and Drinking
Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug, leading to difficult health conditions and sometimes death. While many argue moderation is harmless, there is a big difference between drinking socially, drinking a glass of wine after a hard days’ work, and drinking to escape emotional and mental problems. Drinking alcohol has harmful effects, especially when abused. There are serious effects that can occur if a woman drinks alcohol while expecting a baby. Drinking while pregnant can impact the child and mother in irreversible ways such as:
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
- Birth defects
- Learning disabilities
- Still births
- Emotional and mental difficulty in response to miscarriages
Some expecting mothers believe a little bit of alcohol won’t hurt; however, even the slightest amount of alcohol can be harmful. Additionally, it can be all too easy to create excuses to justify occasional drinking that can become habit-forming. Pregnant women who indulge in binge drinking (drinking 4 or more drinks in a 2-hour timeframe) additionally put both themselves at risk by consuming large amounts of alcohol and risking fetal alcohol syndrome in unborn children.
Furthermore, if combined with pregnancy medications, or other harmful chemicals, alcohol can create more damaging results for both mother and child.
Pregnant Women And Alcohol Statistics
Unfortunately, it has not been uncommon for expecting mothers to have indulged in alcohol. A study by U.S. News gathered statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with unfortunate findings. In 2019, the study concluded 1 in 9 women “drank while pregnant” and 4% of those engaged in binge drinking. The 4% of expecting mothers indulged in binge drinking in a 30-day timeframe. Additionally, 12% of mothers admitted to alcohol use in this same timeframe.
In recent years, there has been an increase in such numbers. Pregnancy and drinking rates have gradually increased between 2006 to 2010, from 2011 to 2013, and from 2015 to 2017 for unknown reasons. A study conducted by the National Birth Defects Prevention Study in 2009 noted 30% of the 4,000 surveyed pregnant women admitted to drinking, while 8% engaged in binge drinking. Unmarried expecting mothers drank more while pregnant when compared to married expecting women (8.9% to 15%).
Most likely coping with the stress and challenges of broken relationships, or the pressure of needing to provide for their child independently, studies found these women were twice as likely to consume alcohol while pregnant. Roughly 87% of women who drink before pregnant were motivated to alter their behavior and drink less; 6% did not stop drinking while pregnant.
Miscarriages And Alcoholism in Expecting Mothers
Miscarriages occur when a baby under 20 weeks old dies before being delivered. Women expecting children can miscarry before they know they are pregnant. It takes an emotional and physical toll on the mother’s psyche as she has to deal with death, guilt, and depression. To add, it takes the body time to recover after such a loss. Drinking while pregnant can encourage such events to occur in expecting mothers.
A study found that drinking while pregnant increased the odds of a miscarriage by 19%. Another noteworthy find is women who drink less drinks per week—five drinks or less—had a 6% chance of increased miscarriages. Women who are most at risk of miscarrying are women who are 35 and over, have had miscarriages in the past and women who abuse drugs and alcohol.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome And Alcohol
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), sometimes called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is one of the most severe side effects for babies when mothers drink while pregnant. These conditions are characterized by babies born with lower than average birthrates as well as:
- Smaller than average heads
- Poor attention spans
- Language delays
- Speech problems (delays, problems socializing)
- Poor coordination
- Shorter than average height
- Low IQ
- Poor judgement
- Hearing difficulties
- Vision problems
- Bone, kidney, and liver problems
Doctors diagnose babies based on specific criteria. This condition lasts a lifetime and cannot be reversed. Fortunately, there are treatments available that can help fight these symptoms. The CDC notes there are ways mothers can educate themselves who are concerned about giving birth to a baby who may have FADS. These tips range from being mindful of alcohol consumption if any and knowing the warning signs, getting an alcohol screening, and educating the public at large about preventive measures. Lastly, a mother battling alcoholism should detox in a medical facility to get professional help, as the CDC affirms the promotion of evidence-based treatments.
Risk Factors for Drinking While Pregnant
Women who are at risk for drinking while pregnant are women who have a history of trauma (PTSD, sexual trauma, depression, or anxiety). This is typically because many use alcohol and drugs to cope with traumatic memories. Additionally, women who have a history of domestic violence (victims of domestic violence) similarly are at risk as they can turn to alcohol for comfort. Women who have a history of substance abuse are at risk for drinking while pregnant as well as the other challenges that come from this circumstance.
Ready To Get Help?
Alcohol abuse is often a result of underlying emotional or mental conditions. Since 2 lives are at risk for harm, it is important to get the best care from a medical professional. If you or your loved one is at risk of drinking too much while pregnant and putting the baby at risk, contact a treatment provider immediately. In addition to detox and approved medications, she will have access to support groups and counseling to get better and understand the motives behind drinking. Time is of the essence. Don’t wait another second.
Author: Krystina Murray | Last Edited: March 29, 2021