A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. While this has been the recommendation for many years, recent independent research challenged the standing advice and purports that small amounts of alcohol may be acceptable. However, the AAP denies that any level of alcohol consumption is advisable during this period of growth and development for fetuses.
The report published in Pediatrics in mid-October indicates that 30 years of research proves that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy due to the direct linkage to many birth defects. All types of alcohol – beer, liquor and wine – are considered dangerous to a fetus because they may cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Both of these pose serious immediate and long-term risks for babies.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the most publicized result of prenatal alcohol consumption. It is often marked by physical side-effects on a baby’s face, especially his eyes and mouth. In addition to abnormal facial features, babies with fetal alcohol syndrome may have behavioral, developmental and growth problems. Fetal alcohol syndrome is more easily detected by doctors following childbirth.
On the other hand, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are less noticeable immediately after birth but may pose problems throughout a child’s life. Some pediatricians never recognize a child’s symptoms as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder as this is a broad term that covers a variety of problems that stem from prenatal exposure to toxic alcohol. Some typical side-effects encompassed in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are physical disabilities, learning and developmental delays, and birth defects of the heart, kidneys, bones, ears and brain. As a result, children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders may display challenges in school and with language development, hearing, memory and judgment.
The AAP recommends the elimination of alcohol in the diet of women who are trying to become pregnant or may suspect they are pregnant. Some women do not realize they are pregnant until several weeks (or months) into their pregnancies. As soon as a woman knows she is pregnant she should stop all alcohol use and visit her OBGYN for a consultation.
Despite years of recommendations, some women still continue to drink alcohol during pregnancy in small or large quantities. The results can be devastating. Women with alcohol addictions prior to pregnancy who are struggling to resist prenatal alcohol consumption are advised to seek help immediately for the health and safety of their babies.