Alcohol and Pregnancy
The risks involved with alcohol use during pregnancy
Alcohol consumption by the mother is a leading cause of birth defects in the fetus
that can be prevented. Everything a mother drinks also goes to the fetus. Alcohol
is broken down more slowly in the immature body of the fetus than in the body of an
adult. This can cause the alcohol levels to remain high and stay in the baby's body
longer. In addition, the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth increases with alcohol
Even light or moderate drinking can affect the developing fetus. Because no amount
of alcohol is safe, pregnant women should avoid alcohol during pregnancy. An infant
born to a mother who drinks alcohol during pregnancy can have problems that are included
in a group of disorders called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). FASDs include
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). These are the most severe problems that can happen when a woman drinks during pregnancy.
These include fetal death. Infants born with FAS have abnormal facial features and
growth and central nervous system problems, including intellectual disability.
Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND). Children with ARND may not have full FAS but have learning and behavioral problems
due to prenatal exposure to alcohol. These problems may include mathematical difficulties,
impaired memory or attention, impulse control and/or judgment problems, and poor school
Alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD). Birth defects related to prenatal alcohol exposure can include abnormalities in the
heart, kidneys, bones, and/or hearing
According to the CDC, the following characteristics or behaviors may happen in children
Small for gestational age at birth or small stature compared with their peers
Facial abnormalities, like small eyes and thin mouth
Poor physical coordination
Developmental disabilities, like speech and language delays
Cognitive delays or low IQ
Problems with daily living
Poor reasoning and judgment skills
Sleep and sucking problems in infancy
Long-term problems in children with FASDs may include psychiatric problems, criminal
behavior, unemployment, and incomplete education.
There is no cure for FASDs, but children who are diagnosed early and receive appropriate
physical and educational interventions are more likely to have better outcomes than
those who are not. This is especially true for those in a stable and nurturing home.