Drinking While Pregnant

A pregnant mother’s excessive drinking can cause her children severe health problems that follow them into adulthood. Because children in the womb are still developing, their livers don’t work well enough to process alcohol the same way adults’ livers do.

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. These birth defects, abnormalities, and developmental disabilities are considered fetal alcohol syndrome. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can also cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. These disabilities are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant. Rather than risk the health of their child, 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. Women with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) who find out they are pregnant need to find treatment immediately.

Pregnant Women And Alcohol: 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 exactly how alcohol will impact the child.

Experts describe all health issues from alcohol exposure before birth as FASDs. As with other spectrum disorders, not all cases are as extreme as others.

Some of the effects of FASDs 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
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Poor memory
  • Speech and language delays
  • Abnormal facial features
  • A smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip

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 FASDs can be linked to the mother’s excessive drinking during pregnancy.

The CDC found that 1 in 10 pregnant women drink; 1 in 50 binge drink.

Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol content to 0.08% or above, typically achieved by drinking about 4 drinks in 2 hours for most women. Tragically, all babies exposed to alcohol in the womb risk developing a lifelong disorder.

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Treatment For Alcoholism In Pregnant Women

If a mother-to-be is struggling with alcohol dependency, there is often more to her situation. It is important for pregnant women to find care that will treat their AUD and the root causes of their addiction.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction while pregnant, don’t wait to get help. Contact a treatment provider today.



Jeffrey Juergens

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  • Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffrey’s desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffrey’s mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them.

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Theresa Parisi

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  • Theresa Parisi received her bachelor’s degree in Addiction Science and Psychology from Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota in 2010. She is currently working towards her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is a Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), Certified Behavioral Health Case Manager (CBHCM), and International Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) by the Florida Certification Board. Theresa is passionate about recovery having gone through addiction herself.

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