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Pregnant Women and Alcohol

Addiction is rarely as dangerous as during pregnancy, when the consequences of relapse could be permanent damage to the baby.

Drinking While Pregnant

Sad pregnant womenA pregnant mother’s excessive drinking can cause her child severe health problems that follow him or her into adulthood.

Because children in the womb are still developing, their livers don’t work well enough to process alcohol the same way an adult liver does.

Any alcohol a mother drinks during pregnancy enters her bloodstream and can reach the baby.

Prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol is the leading preventable cause of birth defects, abnormalities and developmental disabilities in the United States. Doctors debate what “safe” amount of alcohol a pregnant woman can consume. Rather than risk their baby’s health, many mothers-to-be avoid alcohol altogether during pregnancy.

Unfortunately, women struggling with alcohol addiction can’t easily stop drinking despite understanding the potential harms. Addicted women who find out they are pregnant need to get help immediately.

Understanding Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Babies born with atypical facial features who grow up to have mood, attention and anger disorders may be suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome. Every baby and mother is different, so there is no way to know how alcohol will impact the child.

Experts describe all health problems from alcohol exposure before birth as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). As with other disorder spectrums, not all cases are as extreme as others.

Some of the effects of FASD may include:

  • Abnormally small heads and brains
  • Heart and spine defects
  • Shorter than average height
  • Low body weight
  • Intellectual disability
  • Vision and hearing problems
  • Behavioral problems
  • Delayed physical development
  • Problems with the heart, kidney or bones

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Alcohol Abuse During Pregnancy

Many doctors maintain any alcohol use during pregnancy is abuse because it can potentially impact the baby. The most severe cases of FAS can be linked to the mother’s excessive drinking during pregnancy.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 in 10 pregnant women drink; 1 in 50 binge drink.

Binge drinking is defined by a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent, typically achieved by drinking about four drinks in two hours for most women. Tragically, all babies exposed to alcohol in the womb risk developing a lifelong disorder.

Percentage of Women who Drink During Pregnancy

  • Casual Drinkers
  • Binge Drinkers
  • Non-Drinkers

Treatment for Alcoholism in Pregnant Women

If a mother-to-be is struggling with alcohol dependency, there is often more to her situation. Addiction and pregnancy are both delicate topics. It is crucial to handle pregnant women who drink with care and compassion.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction while pregnant, don’t wait to get help. Get in touch with our certified specialists to connect with counselors and addiction treatment today.

Sources & Author Last Edited: November 25, 2015

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs): Alcohol Use in Pregnancy. Retrieved on October 22, 2014, from:
  2. Berkeley. (2012). Substance Abuse During Pregnancy: Guidelines for Screening. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from:
  3. (2014). Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from:
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