Although there are a host of things women are told to avoid during pregnancy, from lunch meats to sushi to soft cheeses, the most well-known substance pregnant women have to abstain from is alcohol.
Though some people say that just a little alcohol won’t hurt an unborn child, leading healthcare experts including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the U.S. Surgeon General all agree that there is no safe amount or type of alcohol or time to drink during pregnancy, as research shows that imbibing small quantities of alcohol contribute to premature labor, stillbirth, miscarriage, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
In an effort to help babies stay happy and healthy this Campaign for Healthier Babies and Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, we’re exploring why drinking and pregnancy shouldn’t mix.
Why Can’t I Drink When I’m Pregnant? The Risks & Effects
Some women accidentally get pregnant — and in the first trimester, before the pregnancy is known, they may consume alcohol. This is unfortunate because drinking in the first trimester, particularly toward the end, is the most damaging to the fetus. One study shows that each drink consumed in the first trimester increases the risk of the following conditions:
- Lip abnormalities (up 25%)
- Abnormal head size (up 12%)
- Low birth weight (up 16%)
- Neurological problems
Binge drinking is obviously more dangerous than light alcohol consumption, as it can cause major damage to the brain and nervous system. Heavy drinking in the first trimester contributes to small brain size, changes in the circuitry of the brain, and loss of nerve cells.
Drinking in the second trimester can affect the size, neurological development, and respiratory abilities of infants. One study revealed that moderate drinking in weeks 13 – 28 of pregnancy increases the risk of giving birth to a smaller-than-average baby by 68%. Small babies can experience difficulty regulating their body temperature and might require a longer hospital stay to receive extra care. They also have an increased risk of respiratory problems and abnormalities of the brain.
Drinking in the third trimester, particularly binge drinking, increases the risk of premature labor. From week 29 of pregnancy until the infant’s birth, the lungs mature, organs like the liver grow, and the baby puts on weight to help with temperature regulation. If the infant isn’t able to develop adequately during this time and is born early, they’ll not only require a longer hospital stay — they might also have scarring and developmental issues that extend into adulthood, including vision and hearing problems.
Help With Alcohol Consumption at ARCpoint Labs
If you know a pregnant woman who has issues with alcoholism, you may need to help her abstain from drinking during pregnancy. ARCpoint Labs offers alcohol testing — so if you are concerned about a family member or employee who seems to be consuming alcohol while pregnant, you can see if your suspicions are correct and help the situation.
To get started, find your nearest ARCpoint Labs today!