Alcohol and pregnancy – can you drink while pregnant?
Alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix. When an expectant mother drinks, the alcohol is carried to the fetus via the placenta. Alcohol is toxic to the fetus, as it cannot break down alcohol as an adult can. Studies show that, in addition to the harmful effects it has on the fetus, alcohol use during pregnancy clearly increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. The most likely damage caused by alcohol is damage to the central nervous system. Alcohol is therefore dangerous to a fetus at all stages of pregnancy.
Early pregnancy and alcohol
Studies show that heavy alcohol consumption in particular can lower fertility and make it more difficult to get pregnant. Drinking alcohol during the critical weeks of early pregnancy can have serious harmful effects on the foetus. Therefore, the safest option is to stop drinking completely when you are planning to get pregnant.
Alcohol can harm your unborn baby – the risk of FASD and FAS
Did you know that alcohol is the major cause of developmental disorders in Western countries? However, these harmful effects are completely preventable by remaining teetotal throughout pregnancy.
In Finland, 600–3,000 children are born with some kind of alcohol damage every year. The spectrum of fetal damage caused by alcohol is referred to using the acronym FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorders). The most serious form of damage is FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome).
Alcohol causes different degrees of damage to a fetus, all the way from learning difficulties to intellectual and developmental disabilities. There is no cure, but an early diagnosis coupled with the right help and support can help children to cope better.
Alko has already been cooperating with the Finnish Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities for several years to raise awareness of FASD. We have also highlighted this theme annually on FASD Day (9 September) by opening our stores at 9.09.
Alcohol and breastfeeding
When a mother drinks, her milk will have the same alcohol concentration as her blood. Unlike during pregnancy, the baby will not receive exactly the same blood alcohol concentration through breast milk as it would through the placenta – it will be lower. Alcohol is not stored in breast milk. It is eliminated at the same rate as it is from the blood. Breast milk will have its highest concentration of alcohol about 30–60 minutes after drinking.
Repeated or heavy use of alcohol during breastfeeding can have a harmful effect on your child’s development. A child’s central nervous system develops rapidly during the first few years of life, and needless exposure to alcohol should always be avoided.
Support from loved ones is an important factor in quitting drinking
When they find out that they are pregnant, most moms-to-be stop and consider their lifestyles. Nutrition, exercise, rest and substance use affect not only the mother’s health and well-being, but also those of the unborn baby.
For most moms-to-be, quitting drinking is an obvious choice that they do not need to think about or justify to themselves or anyone else. However, some mothers may find it surprisingly hard to quit, particularly if they are used to drinking heavily or if their bodies do not adjust easily to the changes. Support from close friends and family members is vital, and they can help by taking moms-to-be into consideration, particularly in situations when alcohol is being served.