Donít drink during pregnancy
Dr Swapna Misra

When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, it is quickly absorbed into her blood stream and it passes on to the baby
When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, it is quickly absorbed into her blood stream and it passes on to the baby

FOR decades, researchers have known that moderate to heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects. Even small amount of alcohol can harm a developing baby. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that about one in eight pregnant women in the US report drinking at least one alcoholic beverage in a month.

Most doctors recommend that pregnant patients should avoid drinking. If you wouldn't give a two-month-old baby a glass of wine, then why would you drink it yourself when you're pregnant? We all know that alcohol impacts brain cells and that the baby's brain develops throughout pregnancy.

When you drink an alcoholic beverage, it is quickly absorbed into your blood stream. The alcohol circulates in the blood until it is completely broken down by the liver.

If you are pregnant, the alcohol in your blood stream passes on to the baby. This means when you 'have a drink' the baby is 'having it' too! Because of the baby's size and its developing system, this 'drink' of alcohol can be more harmful to the baby than it is to you.

ó The writer is senior consultant, obstetrics and gynaecology, Fortis Hospital, Mohali

Kinds of damage

A woman who drinks alcohol during pregnancy is at the risk of giving birth to an abnormal child with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.

  • Such a child has growth difficulties ó the size of the head is small and it also impacts the mental growth of the child.

  • The face would be malformed with narrow eyes, low nasal bridge, short, upturned nose.

  • The baby can also have heart and joint abnormalities.

  • Mental retardation is the most serious defect associated with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.

  • The child can have coordination problems, a short attention span and other behavioural problems.

  • The child tends to be hyperactive and aggressive.

  • None of these defects get corrected as the child grows up.

Some other facts

  • Every woman varies in her ability to break down alcohol and eliminate it from her body. So, even one drink can be harmful.

  • It hasn't yet been proven conclusively whether the alcohol consumed by the father affects the condition of sperms and growth after conception.

  • If you had a drink or two before your periods were due, do not panic. It is not likely that it will harm your baby. The important thing is to avoid it completely now and stay as healthy as possible. Swear off alcohol for the rest of the pregnancy.