Drinking small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy is enough to alter a babys brain, study finds

However, this is also a group of women more disposed to consuming alcohol during pregnancy [4, 21]. We are less sure about the risks of low to moderate drinking, and until we have better information, it’s understandable that health organizations and providers would advise complete abstinence from alcohol. While this would seem to suggest that low-level alcohol consumption is safe during pregnancy, there are other factors to consider. First, while the study included 1,600 women, that’s still a relatively small sample size.

The motivation for this article arises from the need to add women’s perspectives to the present debate among physicians, philosophers and health researchers, as to the best way of communicating information about alcohol consumption during pregnancy. This debate is being importantly influenced by philosophical argument. Whether or not they choose to drink alcohol during pregnancy, women’s perspectives, voiced in their own terms, have an equally important role to play in validating or refuting some of the claims being made. We recognised an opportunity to add to this conversation by analysing data we had already collected. Our data reflect women’s views as they arose spontaneously and were expressed candidly as our study did not frame the issue of alcohol consumption in any particular way.

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Brain changes were seen in the foetuses even at low levels of alcohol exposure. For the study, researchers analysed MRI scans of 24 foetuses that had been exposed to alcohol. “Therefore, it is our responsibility not only to do the research but also to actively educate the public about the effects of alcohol on the foetus,” lead author Patric Kienast, a PhD student at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, said.

alcohol during pregnancy

Alcohol consumption during the early stages of pregnancy, such as before a woman knows that she is pregnant, can harm the mother and her child in a number of ways. Pregnant women have long been subject to a wide range of warnings and admonitions about their actions during pregnancy, often based on superstition or fear. One hundred and fifty years ago, medical journals were full of articles about the “doctrine of maternal impressions,” a theory that held that a woman’s emotions and experiences during pregnancy could leave a permanent mark or imprint on her child. A woman who succumbed to a craving for strawberries might give birth to a child with a birthmark. A woman who saw a rabbit during pregnancy might have a baby with a hare lip. A woman who gazed at something speckled or spotted would give birth to a child with freckles.

Impact of perceived external judgement on maternal drinking during pregnancy

Further investigation of different communication strategies appropriate for women, differentiated in terms of the role of alcohol in identity, knowledge of risk and sensitivity, could be helpful to practitioners. Drinking alcohol while pregnant is a leading cause of birth defects in a baby. Alcohol is broken down more slowly in the baby’s developing body than it is in an adult’s body.

alcohol during pregnancy

The ways in which alcohol can affect an unborn child varies by case, but health risks can include both short-and long-term complications. Although some dangerous effects of alcohol exposure in the womb can be quickly identified in newborns, other health complications may take years to manifest. Six mothers also reported at least one binge drinking event (exceeding four drinks on one occasion) during their pregnancy. “Seventeen of 24 mothers drank alcohol relatively infrequently, with average alcohol consumption of less than one alcoholic drink per week,” Kienast said. Our findings are relevant to the experiences of White Australian women of higher socioeconomic status. They were in an older age group during their last pregnancy and most could afford to receive private maternity care and to consult an obstetrician.

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Researchers trained in identifying the distinctive physical characteristics of F.A.S.D. evaluated over 3,000 children in four communities across the United States. Women have been told not to drink during pregnancy for decades; last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended that advice to all women who were at risk for experiencing a pregnancy. This commentary puts the recent CDC guidelines in historical perspective and considers the unintended consequences of public health messages that extend beyond what is supported by evidence.

But providing people with accurate information so they can make informed choices about their bodies is the antithesis of the patriarchy. There have been many twists and turns in how we, medically and societally, view drinking while pregnant. If you had a drink or two before you knew you https://ecosoberhouse.com/article/is-it-safe-to-drink-alcohol-during-pregnancy/ were pregnant (as is common), don’t worry too much about it. But your best bet is to not drink any more alcohol for the rest of your pregnancy. Children with ‘partial’ FAS or other alcoholrelated disorders will also need support at home and school, similar to children who have FAS.

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This means that they have four or more alcoholic beverages in a two-hour time period. Those who continued to drink alcohol during pregnancy described how they conceived “acceptable” levels of drinking. One glass of wine, once or twice a week, was the maximum acceptable level of drinking reported by women. Many women emphasised their reduced consumption by stating they only had “a glass of wine here or there” or by highlighting that they drank fractional glasses of wine on any given occasion.

alcohol during pregnancy

This latest CDC warning reflects the increasingly fear-based approach to managing the uncertainty of pregnancy; it’s a flashback to the idea that women could unwittingly harm their unborn children. Second, the CDC warning frames all women as potentially pregnant or pre-pregnant all the time. In this, the warning reflects the move to embrace the idea of “preconception health,” an initiative that the CDC first launched in 2004. It’s a plea to weigh carefully the evidence base for and the consequences of public health messages. It’s also an argument for accepting that we cannot control, manage, or erase every risk in pregnancy, no more so than in life. Yet we commonly understand that pregnant women, like the rest of us, regularly make all kinds of risk assessments.

Keeping Your Baby Safe After Birth

Binge drinking (more than four drinks at a time) is clearly a dangerous drinking pattern, but even low or moderate amounts of alcohol can be unsafe during a pregnancy. This recommendation immediately caused a great deal of consternation—and generated considerable anxiety, concern, criticism, and even derision (Kukla, 2016; Macmillen, 2016; Petri, 2016; Skenazy, 2016). Women who had consumed alcohol between the time they conceived and the time they realized they were pregnant began to wonder if they had unwittingly harmed their future baby. Could a glass of wine with dinner or a happy hour cocktail really cause brain damage in their future child?

This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your physician. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances. Not all children exposed to alcohol before being born will have ‘full’ FAS. Women who find it hard to stop drinking, or who already have a child with FAS, should get help before getting pregnant. Some communities have support programs where women help other women to stop drinking or cut down. Pregnant women with alcoholism should join an alcohol abuse rehabilitation program.

Q: Is it okay to drink a little or at certain times during pregnancy?

Although we were interested in illuminating women’s experiences and decision-making about alcohol use in this article, we were careful not to ignore relevant contextual information evident in the interview data as a whole. We referred back to interview transcripts throughout analysis and incorporated contextual information into our findings where appropriate. Children who are suspected of FASDs must be carefully evaluated by a pediatrician, child and adolescent psychiatrist or other medical or mental health clinician. Fetal alcohol exposure is often missed as the cause of the problems in a child’s behavior. The effects of alcohol on the developing brain during pregnancy are not reversible.

  • An inductive qualitative framework analysis approach was used to identify and interpret themes explaining why pregnant women choose to drink or not.
  • In some cases, loved ones may stage an alcohol intervention with the help of a counselor.
  • One glass of wine, once or twice a week, was the maximum acceptable level of drinking reported by women.
  • The truth is that fetal alcohol syndrome is far more common than people think, and we have no ability to say accurately what level of alcohol consumption is risk free.