Why Moms-to-Be Should Just Say No to Alcohol

drinking pregnancy

A pregnant mom of a 2-year-old was going to a “girls’ night” with some friends and wanted to know if it was OK to drink a little bit of wine. She didn’t want to feel left out.

“Is it really that big a deal?” she asked me.

It seems it’s not that uncommon for pregnant women to drink. In a recent report, the CDC said 10.2% of pregnant women reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days. And 50% of women of childbearing age drink alcohol.

Alcohol during pregnancy can have severe consequences. In fact, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD), caused by prenatal alcohol consumption, is on the rise, with some recent studies citing 24-48 cases per 1,000 pregnancies. It’s thought the actual number may be even higher, as the diagnosis can be missed.

Here’s some eye openers: Drinking during all trimesters of pregnancy can increase the odds of FASD by a factor of 65, meaning it’s 65 times more likely to happen. Drinking during pregnancy can also increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the leading cause of death in infants.

Because of these and other reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics this week came out with an updated report reiterating that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.

It may seem overly cautious, but consider this: doctors really don’t know how much alcohol it takes to trigger Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder or whether that amount is different for everyone. What we do know is that any amount of alcohol can penetrate the womb and potentially expose the fetus.

What is FASD? It encompasses a wide range of physical defects in a child as well as behavioral and intellectual problems. Physical abnormalities range from unusual facial features such as a small chin and small skull to cleft palate (an opening in the upper part of the mouth) and heart defects. Memory skills, problem solving and reasoning – things that affect how well a child performs in school — can also be a part of this syndrome. And sadly, these kids and teens have a 95% likelihood of mental health issues including depression and substance abuse.

Imagine having a child with multiple medical issues. Think about taking him to doctors’ appointments regularly and having him see therapists to improve his coordination or writing ability. Finding specialized schooling or having the school offer pullouts (taking special needs children out of class for mediation) can be an arduous task, too, and don’t forget about monitoring school performance and meeting with teachers regularly to make sure he can handle the workload.

If he has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or depression (which are also tied to drinking during pregnancy), trying different medications to see if any of them work is time consuming and difficult as well. And this is just the additional burden on you. Now, think about the lifelong burden on him: having difficulty making friends because of a lack of social skills, having difficulties in school due to intellectual disability and often getting in trouble due to impulse control and lack of understanding. Unfortunately, kids with FASD also have a much higher risk of getting in trouble with the law.

And all of this could happen because of drinking during pregnancy. Is it worth taking the chance of dramatically altering your life and, most importantly, your child’s life?

So the answer is to the question, “Is it really that big a deal?” is yes. As parents, we want to give our child the best chance to be healthy and happy. Let’s do it by just saying no to alcohol during pregnancy.

This Article Was Originally Published in WebMD