Alcohol During Pregnancy & Breastfeed | Effects, Dangers & Treatment

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There are many people who enjoy drinking socially, but pregnant women need to refrain from alcohol use while pregnant. Otherwise, their unborn child could be at a greater risk of developing physical, mental, and emotional disabilities. 

What do you need to know about alcohol use during pregnancy, and how can you put your unborn child in the best position possible to be born healthily? Remember that you do not have to face this situation alone. You can reach out to a professional who can help you. 

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Can You Drink Alcohol While Pregnant?

Many women ask about the amount of alcohol that is safe while pregnant. The reality is that there is no safe amount of alcohol. Your OB/GYN will probably encourage you to refrain from drinking a single drop of alcohol while pregnant.

While binge drinking is certainly dangerous for you and your unborn child, any amount of alcohol consumption or alcohol exposure could increase your unborn child’s potential to develop prenatal defects. 

Your healthcare provider will probably let you know that even a single glass of wine, a single bottle of beer, or a single cocktail has the potential to lead to significant birth defects.

How Does Alcohol Pass to the Developing Baby?

If you consume alcohol while pregnant, alcohol will pass through the placenta and the umbilical cord to your unborn child. If a woman drinks while pregnant, the alcohol will pass from the stomach into the placenta, travel up the umbilical cord, and increase your child’s chance of developing alcohol-related birth defects. 

That is why the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that you refrain from alcohol use while pregnant. The effects of alcohol can be detrimental to your baby’s health, and many of these health problems can even develop during your first trimester.

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What Are the Effects of Alcohol on Your Unborn Child?

Even small amounts of alcohol can have detrimental impacts on your child’s health. The biggest risk of consuming alcohol while pregnant is that your child could be at risk of developing fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). 

This refers to a constellation of health issues that your child might develop as a result of alcohol exposure. Some of the most common features associated with fetal alcohol syndrome include:

  • Your child could develop abnormal facial characteristics. These include eyes that are spaced far apart, a flat nasal bridge, and a thin upper lip. 
  • Children with FAS often do not have a philtrum. If you look in the mirror, you will probably see a few ridges underneath your nose. Children who have been exposed to alcohol in the womb often do not have these ridges. 
  • Children exposed to alcohol in the womb often have a low birth weight. When babies are born lighter than normal, they are at an increased risk of developing complications shortly after birth.
  • Your child may also have a small head circumference. This could lead to learning disabilities down the road.
  • Babies who are diagnosed with FAS often have problems with their eyesight and hearing. Tests are typically conducted shortly after birth, but the pediatrics team might have to address potential issues with you later.
  • Babies with FAS can also develop bone, kidney, and heart issues. 

Even though many of these issues are not diagnosed until after your child is born, there can be significant complications during the pregnancy as well. For example, if you drink while you are pregnant, you could be at an increased risk of miscarriage.

If You Are an Alcoholic, Can You Have a Healthy Baby?

If you have an alcohol use disorder, you might be concerned about whether you can have a healthy baby. Even if you consider yourself to be an alcoholic, you can still have a healthy child. You simply need to refrain from drinking while pregnant.

As long as there is no alcohol in your bloodstream while pregnant, you should not be at risk of your unborn child developing fetal alcohol syndrome.

At the same time, you may have a difficult time refraining from alcohol while pregnant, particularly if you still have a difficult time remaining sober. The important thing to remember is that you do not have to go through this situation alone, and there are experts who are willing to lend a helping hand to those in need. If you are concerned about substance abuse and mental health issues, there are support groups available. You can learn from the experiences of others and use that knowledge to remain sober while pregnant.

Furthermore, even after you have a baby, some alcohol can still pass into your breast milk. While waiting between your alcohol drink and your breastfeeding session can lessen the risk, you should still avoid heavy drinking while breastfeeding, and you need to stay away from alcohol entirely if you know that you have an alcohol use disorder. That is where we can help you.

Get Help For Managing Alcohol Use While Pregnant

No matter what type of alcohol you enjoy, you need to refrain from it if you are pregnant. At Riverside Recovery of Tampa, we can help you address potential alcohol use issues. Our expert medical and clinical teams have a significant amount of experience working with people of all backgrounds, and that includes women who are pregnant. We know that you want to have a healthy baby, and that is why we will do everything we can to provide you with the coping skills that you need to remain sober while pregnant.

Our team can even communicate with your OB/GYN to make sure everyone is on the same page. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you stay sober while pregnant, contact us today to speak to a member of our admission team. 

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders–Alcohol Use During Pregnancy

  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse, Medline Plus–Alcohol and pregnancy