Don’t drink, ever, if pregnant
Prenatal exposure to alcohol is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities in children, according to a clinical report co-authored by Janet F. Williams, M.D., FAAP, professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine.
No amount of alcohol should be considered safe to drink at any time during pregnancy, states the report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The range of effects that can occur in someone whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy is called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, and includes neurocognitive and behavioral problems. The effects of prenatal alcohol exposure are lifelong, but early recognition, diagnosis and therapy for any condition can improve a child’s health.
A lack of uniformly accepted diagnostic criteria for fetal alcohol-related disorders has critically limited efforts to lessen the impact of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, said Dr. Williams.
“Even though fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are the most commonly identifiable causes of developmental delays and intellectual disabilities, they remain significantly under-recognized,” said Dr. Williams.
Prenatal alcohol exposure is a frequent cause of structural or functional effects on the brain, heart, bones and spine, kidneys, vision and hearing. It is associated with a higher incidence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and specific learning disabilities such as difficulties with math and language, visual-spatial functioning, impaired impulse control, information processing, memory skills, problem solving, abstract reasoning and auditory comprehension.
Even when a pregnant woman’s consumption was limited to one alcoholic drink per day—such as a 1.5-ounce shot of distilled liquor, 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer—there is increased risk of infant growth retardation, a recent study found. Yet 8 percent of women surveyed said they continued to drink during pregnancy.
Drinking during the first trimester, compared to no drinking, results in 12 times the odds of giving birth to a child with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. First- and second-trimester drinking increased the odds 61 times, and women who drank during all trimesters increased the likelihood of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders odds by a factor of 65.
“The research suggests that the smartest choice for women who are pregnant is to just abstain from alcohol completely,” Dr. Williams said.