Many new moms ask the question “How much alcohol is OK in pregnancy” and the simple answer is that all the research shows that even a very small amount can cause a problem. Then you’ll hear other moms say – “I used to have a couple of glasses on wine a day with my last pregnancy – and he was born OK“.
All the research on alcohol in pregnancy has’nt been able to establish what is a “safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy”. The thing to remember is that the developing embryo is growing into YOUR little child, and living with a child whose brain has been affected – is very difficult.
The name given to a substance that acts like a toxin is called “teratogen”. The word comes form the Greek “teraton” – which means “monster”. Why would you want to risk turning your child into a “monster”? Nicotine acts like a toxin on the developing embryo/fetus and is linked to children with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)
All drugs potentially can damage your baby’s growing brain and nervous system. Alcohol may cause your baby to be born prematurely, they can weigh less than they should (there are graphs to measure expected weights for different racial groups). Babies affected by alcohol also can have a small head. A child whos brain has been damaged by drugs, ends up being a slow learner, has more trouble working out how to understand other people so can have difficulty making friends. Getting through school can be very difficult and often kids who are slow learners can be bullied. With the Moms who say their kids haven’t been affected by the alcohol they consumed during their pregnancies – how do they know what their child would have been capable of, if their brain had not been exposed to the alcohol?
Although most people think that it is only during the first trimester of pregnancy that you need to avoid drugs/alcohol, research shows it’s best to avoid them throughout your pregnancy.
I think there is so much debate about the alcohol question, because so often a woman doesn’t know she is pregnant – and has been drinking as much as she normally would – and then discovers she is pregnant. Life is full of challenges – and this is one of them, and yes, your baby may have no effect from the alcohol. My suggestion is that going forward – avoid all drugs, whether it is alcohol nicotine, or even prescription drugs. Fortunately, there are many things you CAN do – which will optimise your baby’s brain development – AFTER your baby is born – so hopefully you can make up for it. It’s really important to understand how the fetus, and then newborn’s brain develops – I have a section on that.
The challenge is doing everything “right” during those first few months after birth – as you’re dealing with hormone changes, and sleep deprivation. It’s much easier to make these changes when you’re not looking after a little baby at the same time. This pregnancy is going to change your life. We all make choices every day that affect our lives and the lives of others, in this case the life of your unborn child.