Recent Evidence Shows There Is No Safe Amount of Alcohol During Pregnancy

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on September 19, 2019 · 0 comments

Experts agree that excessive alcohol intake by a pregnant woman is dangerous to the developing baby but there has been disagreement as to whether smaller amounts are harmful. A number of recent studies are suggesting that there is no safe amount or safe stage during pregnancy to drink alcohol.

An editorial and studies presented in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest that fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is not a rare condition in the US. FASD may affect anywhere from 1% to 10% of all babies. When a mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy her baby is at high risk of developing FASD, but many of these cases go unrecognized or misdiagnosed. 

Alcohol can impact a pregnancy at any stage. In early pregnancy, it causes heart and birth defects and increases the risk for stillbirth and miscarriage. At later stages of pregnancy, alcohol affects the development of the brain impacting memory, learning and motor skills. Some of these deficits go unnoticed until a child begins school. Teenagers, exposed to alcohol in the womb, are more likely to have problems with connections between the right and left halves of the brain. Deficits in this area have been reports in people with schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, autism, and depression.

One of the researchers, Salena Zanotti, MD from the Cleveland Clinic said that pregnant women need to know that fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is 100% preventable and there is help available for those struggling with alcohol addiction.

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