Pregnant Women Alcohol

Pregnant Women and Alcohol Abuse: What You Need to Know

Alcohol consumption of any kind by a pregnant woman can lead to serious complications during her pregnancy and even long after birth. As a pregnant woman, drinking wine, beer, or any other kind of alcohol can put your unborn baby at risk and even put your health in danger. Regular alcohol intake in the early stages of pregnancycan also be detrimental to you and your baby’s health. Alcohol addiction combined with pregnancy becomes a dual problem.

There are many publications online recommending how much you can drink as a pregnant woman. However, it is advised that all alcohol consumptions are stopped during pregnancy. A lot of researchers have done research which suggests that even the smallest amounts of alcohol consumed during pregnancy can lead to a variety of problems such as miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The danger of alcoholism in pregnancy is why many babies around the world are born with health complications, with some of these complications being life-threatening. In some cases, babies have to remain under care for months, as medical staff have to constantly monitor their vitals in an attempt to deal with any problems caused by alcoholism. Even with the best monitoring, these babies can end up with a range of developmental issues, such as learning disabilities and cognitive impairment. Perhaps the biggest risk to babies exposed to alcohol in the womb is the development of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).

All of these issues surrounding alcohol use in pregnancy is why you should not allow your drinking problem to continue as you progress into pregnancy. There are a variety of alcohol addiction treatment solutions available to you. Simply get in touch with any specialist or treatment centre to get started on your road to recovery, and ensure you do not cause any health problems in your baby as a result of your habit.

Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder in Women

People with a alcohol problem tend to drink in excess, endangering themselves and everyone around them. Normal alcohol use for a woman is one drink a day. However, women with alcohol use disorder end up going above this limit fairly regularly.

Having an alcohol use disorder means that your drinking pattern is one that brings adverse consequences to you and yet you are unable to stop consumption. If you are struggling with academic, work, or family-related obligations as a result of your alcohol use, you are most likely battling with alcohol use disorder. The same applies if you have mounting legal issues as a result of your drinking (think drink driving or alcohol-induced troubles with other people).

If you have alcohol use disorder, you have lost control of your alcohol use. Regardless of the quantity of alcohol, or they type of alcohol you drink, if you have this disorder, you will be unable to stop drinking once you have started. You find yourself increasing the quantity of alcohol consumed in a bid to replicate a certain level of intoxication and, when you are not drinking, you will find yourself experiencing a range of withdrawal symptoms. These can include: restlessness, irritability, tremors, hallucinations. and convulsions.

However, even though alcohol use disorder is given a lot of publicity in general discourse, it is important to note that you don’t necessarily have to get to this level, as a pregnant woman, to put you and your baby in danger.

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More Evidence that Pregnant Women Should Avoid Alcohol

Several studies evaluating the effects of alcohol in pregnant women have highlighted evidence that drinking alcohol puts foetuses at risk of developing foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). This is a term that refers to a range of mild to severe effects that can happen because of prenatal alcohol exposure. In babies affected, the effects may include physical changes (especially to the face) and a wide range of disabilities affecting the brain and central nervous system. These disabilities can trigger a host of problems, such as emotional, cognitive and behavioural problems. With these, the baby will have difficulties with their reasoning skills and learning from experience.

The likelihood of FASD occurring increases with the frequency and number of drinks consumed during a pregnancy.

To date, there is no official proof that any quantity of alcohol in pregnancy is safe. This is why most guidelines around the world encourage women to stay away from alcohol during pregnancy, if they are to be certain that their child will not be harmed by any alcohol they would consume. The warning is given more credence by the fact that there is still no cure for FASD available today.

Common Dangers of Drinking While Pregnant

If you consume alcohol while pregnant, it will quickly go through your bloodstream, from where it will eventually find its way to the umbilical cord and placenta. These parts are important to the supply of oxygen and nutrients which are vital for your baby’s development. They play a very important role because they ensure that the baby is fed on anything the mother consumes. Unfortunately, this also includes dangerous substances such as alcohol.

Your body can break down alcohol within a few hours. For your baby, however, it will take much longer for its system to properly digest the alcohol. The longer the alcohol remains in the body of the baby, the greater the risk of it developing a range of life-threatening damage to the brain and other important organs. Regardless of how much alcohol you consume, your baby can develop a wide range of health complications before and after birth

Alcohol consumption is potentially very harmful in the early stages of pregnancy. Unfortunately, many women only find out that they are pregnant weeks or months into it. Therefore, to avoid these risks to your baby, you should aim to cut your drinking as soon as you start trying to get pregnant. If the pregnancy was unplanned, stop drinking as soon as you know you’re pregnant.

The ways alcohol can affect a baby will vary from one case to another. However, the health risks are generally divided into short-term and long-term complications. Some of the complications can be quickly identified in the newborns by medical experts but other health complications may take years to be noticed.

The earlier dangers of drinking while pregnant for a baby are picked up on during paediatric sessions. After this, medical professionals will keep track of the baby’s health to ensure that their development and motor skills are similar to those of others in their stage of development. Some of the main dangers of drinking while pregnant include the following:

Miscarriage or Stillbirth

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is one of the main reasons for miscarriage and stillbirth rates. During a miscarriage, the foetus stops growing within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. A stillbirth refers to when it stops growing or dies after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Both cases can cause a lot of emotional and physical problems for a mother. Therefore, it is important for you to quit alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and also ensure that you are receiving proper prenatal care at every stage of the process.

Premature Birth

Alcohol use is another reason why premature birth happens. During premature birth, the baby is born before the 37th week of the pregnancy. Apart from the fact that premature births come with a high risk of serious health conditions, they can often be fatal. Babies that survive premature birth can have developmental problems in future. Generally, babies born prematurely will require medical care and attention over the first few years.

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs)

By drinking during pregnancy, you are putting your baby at risk of developing a wide range of physical and behavioural problems. These conditions are referred to as FASDs. They are generally incurable and tend to have long-lasting effects. Some of the most common issues seen in people with FASDs include impairment in cognitive skills, inability to control emotions, and issues with completing everyday tasks. FASDs’ impact on the brain also leads to children suffering from mental health disorders, making repeat mistakes, and making bad choices.

Birth Defects

Alcohol use during pregnancy is one of the main reasons for the development of birth defects. The birth defects generally form within the first trimester and they can impact how the body of the child looks and functions. Birth defects that can happen as a result of alcohol use includes Down Syndrome, club foot, spina bifida, cleft lip, and heart problems. Some of these birth defects can be treated with surgery or medicine, but others can adversely affect the health of the child, even deep into adulthood. Staying clear of alcohol during pregnancy is the best way to ensure that birth defects and similar problems are avoided.

Effects of Alcohol on the Mother

Alcohol consumption among women of childbearing age is a public health issue around the world. When you drink during pregnancy, you increase the risk of harming your unborn baby, as well as your own body. Any amount of alcohol consumed is regarded as at-risk alcohol use during pregnancy. This is why most health bodies around the globe advise against alcohol consumption of any kind during pregnancy.

Alcohol during pregnancy is linked to many negative health issues for the mother, including maternal psychosocial risks and physical risks of potential harm to both the mother and the child. The following are some of the physical effects of alcohol on the mother:

  • Contraction of STIs as a result of engagement in alcohol-induced risky behaviour. This can harm the pregnancy.
  • Sustaining injuries as a result of the impact of alcohol on the body which can lead to miscarriage.
  • Seizures
  • Breast, mouth, liver and oesophageal cancer
  • Malnutrition

Some of the psychosocial problems you may experience as a result of alcohol use during pregnancy include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Work disability
  • Family or work-related conflicts
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol
  • Suicidal ideations

Third Trimester Risks

Although the formation of organs and organ systems have become well-developed at this stage, the baby is still susceptible to all the dangers of alcohol. Its brain and other organs continue developing throughout pregnancy and might be affected by exposure to alcohol at any point in time.  The risks at this stage will vary from one baby to another, because every pregnancy is different.

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Alcohol and Infant Death: Is There a Connection?

Sudden Infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a condition that claims the lives of thousands of babies every year. Alcohol use has been mentioned as one of the leading causes of this. Scientists say that mothers who consume alcohol during pregnancy put their child in danger of SIDs. An Australian study based on data from more than 78,000 women who gave birth between 1983 and 2005 showed that babies born to mothers who drank alcohol during pregnancy are seven times at risk of SIDS death. The research also showed that the risk of dying increased nine times for babies whose mothers regularly drank alcohol within a year after birth. There was also a higher chance of the babies dying from other causes because their moms were heavy drinkers.

The researchers believe that a baby exposed to alcohol during pregnancy has a higher chance of changes occurring in parts of the brain that are responsible for breathing and other such bodily functions. Even after a baby has been delivered, using alcohol as a mother can create an environment where the newborn will be put at risk. For instance, in homes where the mother or caregiver drinks, the baby may suffer from dehydration, untreated infection, and suffocation. With each of these putting the newborn at a higher risk of developing SIDS.

Problems for Babies Born to Alcohol Addicted Mothers

The major problem for babies born to alcohol addicted mothers is the risk of ingesting alcohol through breast milk. Excessive alcohol while breastfeeding is harmful to a baby. Unfortunately, it is still unclear just how deeply the baby is affected.

Additionally, mothers with an alcohol problem are more likely to put their babies in harm’s way when under the influence of alcohol. Dropped babies or those fed alcohol instead of water mistakenly are not uncommon. The influence of alcohol can also numb judgement and prevent the mother from seeing problems that require urgent medical attention.

Why Alcohol Addiction and Pregnancy Add Up to a Serious Public Health Concern

Alcohol addiction and pregnancy is a serious public health issue because, apart from the mother being affected, the baby may be subjected to a range of harmful health consequences. These health consequences lead to the introduction of children that will grow into adults, bearing some defects and damage to their system that cannot be cured.

It is no surprise, therefore, that many governments around the world are engaging in campaigns that will help prevent more mothers from delivering babies with FASDs and other challenges as a result of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The costs can be enormous as some of the babies need to be taken care of for the rest of their lives.

Co-Occurring Disorders that Can Complicate Matters Further

Women addicted to alcohol have to be screened and monitored properly to ensure that they get comprehensive treatment. This is because, at this stage, they are more vulnerable to mental health disorders. The risks associated with some of the possible disorders increase when alcohol addiction is taken into the equation. Some of the most common examples of such co-occurring disorders in pregnant women with alcohol addiction include:

  • Depression
  • Postpartum depression

When any of these are present, it will increase the need for fast-tracked addiction help and close monitoring for the sake of the health of both the baby and mother.

How to Know If A Pregnant Woman Is Struggling with Substance Abuse

Alcohol and other types of substances present a specific problem for pregnant women and their unborn babies. This is why it is very important to understand all the signs of addiction so as to be able to identify them and help nudge the affected individual towards treatment. Some of the signs to watch out for include:

  • Reluctance to go into prenatal care
  • Failure to honour doctor appointments
  • Signs of intoxication
  • Unexplained loss of weight
  • Reckless behaviour
  • Abscesses
  • Cellulitis
  • Presence of track marks as a result of using intravenous substances alongside alcohol

Co-Occurring Disorders for Alcohol Addiction in Pregnancy

The main co-occurring disorders for alcohol addiction in pregnancy include:

  • Depression
  • Postpartum depression
  • Panic disorder
  • Eating disorders

However, it is also possible for a pregnant woman to show signs of multiple substance use. When this is the case, the treatment process changes drastically as care has to be broadened to compensate for the effects of the substances in question on the mother and foetus. The best addiction treatment rehabs know how to handle multiple substance use cases.

Statistics for Pregnant Women and Alcohol Addiction

A recent study in the United States showed that 1 in 10 pregnant women reported various kinds of alcohol use and 1 in 33 reported binge-drinking over the past 30 days.  The highest prevalence of alcohol use among pregnant women were those aged 35-44 years.

In the UK, a report established that 4 in 10 British women drink during pregnancy, with many young professionals binge-drinking because they are unaware of the fact that they are expecting a baby. The UK has also been rated as one of the places with the worst rates of drinking while pregnant in the European region. Britain also has one of the highest cases of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome in the world with around 61.3 cases per 10,000 births. This is significantly higher than the global average, which is 15 out of 10,000 and is also the 44th worst in Europe.

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Treating Alcohol Addiction In Pregnant Women

The situation around alcohol addiction and pregnant women doesn’t automatically mean doom for everyone involved. It is possible for effective alcohol addiction treatment to be carried out, even during pregnancy. Even when co-occurring disorders are identified, they can be treated alongside the addiction.

The first step is detox and this can be managed medically in order to ensure that mother and baby are safe. During the detox process, professionals will look for the best possible way to fight the alcohol addiction without any lasting damages. Successful detox often includes a wide range of therapies. Remember, each pregnancy and addiction case will vary from one case to another. This is why you need to fully cooperate with health professionals to find the right solution for your specific case.

It is important to note that, as a pregnant woman, you do not have any reason to avoid treatment on the grounds of the fear of legal problems. Addiction-related cases brought against pregnant women with alcohol and other addictions are generally dismissed because it has been established that criminal prosecution doesn’t yield any positive results when it comes to dealing with alcohol addiction and pregnancy. You should never hesitate to seek help for your addiction if you need it.

Don’t know who to contact for help? Talk to your doctor today. Your doctor should be able to recommend treatment options for you, based on your case. Even when you choose to find a treatment centre on your own, which is now very easy, you will still need to provide medical history from your doctor. Therefore, your break from alcohol addiction starts with talking to a qualified professional.

Risks and Complications of Treatment

The main risk and complication of treatment for alcohol addiction treatment in pregnant women is the risk of losing the baby or mother. There is also the risk of damage to organs as a result of improperly managed withdrawal from alcohol. This is why it is extremely dangerous to battle alcohol addiction on your own as an addicted mother. Addiction professionals know how best to pursue a treatment plan to ensure a positive outcome.

Quitting Alcohol While Pregnant

If you attempt to withdraw from alcohol on your own as a pregnant woman, without any help, you are placing yourself and your baby at risk. As a woman dependent on alcohol, you will need special counselling and painstaking medical supervision to quit alcohol use without any hitch. The entire process must also be managed by doctors and nurses who are experienced in the treatment of pregnant women with alcohol problems. Depending on your level of alcohol use, your doctor may recommend inpatient or outpatient detoxification and treatment.

Inpatient programmes are best if it has been established that you:

  • Are physiologically dependent on alcohol
  • Drink up to 5 days a week or more
  • Are at risk of alcohol withdrawal

The risk of alcohol withdrawal is one that cannot be ignored, because it is a huge threat to the brain of the developing baby. Withdrawal can activate the NMDA receptor which plays a major role in the development of the brain, learning and memory. When there is an excess activation of this receptor (as is the case during withdrawal), it can lead to neuronal cell death in the baby.

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How To Safely Detox While Pregnant

The best way to safely detox while pregnant is to get involved in professionally-designed detox programmes. These programmes are designed to meet your specific needs and will, therefore, guarantee the safety of you and your baby.

Such programmes can be specifically tailored to your exact needs, and you will always get the best level of care you need at every turn.

What Treatment Options Exist

Inpatient and outpatient programmes are the two main options for the treatment of alcohol addiction in pregnancy. Inpatient programs can last for up to 90 days and you will be required to live in a facility over the course of the programme. During this process, you will enjoy round-the-clock medical supervision and take part in both individual and group therapy. You may also become a part of recommended support groups. Some facilities can also provide dual diagnosis treatment for any other disorders you might have, in addition to the alcohol addiction. You may also be given the option of postpartum support.

With outpatient treatment options, you get to enjoy the flexibility of living at home while you are cared for. Outpatient programs are always very close to inpatient programmes with the only missing element being the consistent medical monitoring. Outpatient programmes generally feature group therapy for several hours during the week.

During the addiction treatment process, doctors can prescribe a range of medications. Some of these have been effective but there is still not enough data to suggest that giving them to pregnant women is completely safe.

  • Naltrexone: Popular for addiction treatment during pregnancy because there are no known harmful effects.
  • Disulfiram: Sometimes used during pregnancy but can lead to increased levels of acetaldehyde which can harm the foetus.
  • Acamprosate: This is teratogen and can thus affect pregnancy negatively. However, there hasn’t been enough studies to properly determine how the foetus and the mother are
  • Topiramate: This is another adjunct treatment for alcohol dependence that have not been properly tested for effects in human pregnancy.
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Staying Alcohol-Free after Pregnancy

Your recovery doesn’t end after you leave the alcohol addiction treatment centre. When you are done with treatment, you still need to focus on avoiding going back to your life as a problem drinker. One of the things you can do is to remain in counselling or group therapy for as long as possible. These are meetings that can help you to remain committed to an alcohol-free lifestyle. It is also vital for you to avoid staying around people that will encourage your drinking habit.  There are other ideas that can help you to stay away from alcohol and ensure a healthy life for you and your baby.

If you find yourself drinking alcohol out of boredom, you need to find things to do to keep you busy. Think about getting a full-time or part-time job you will enjoy doing. You can become a volunteer or learn to play a new musical instrument. If you ensure your time is more occupied, you will be less likely to go back to drinking alcohol because you are bored.

If you need to remain fully aware of the dangers of using alcohol to avoid use, surround yourself with people that can keep you grounded. You can get tapes and books from your treatment centre with all the warnings. Additionally, you can ask to be given a minder that will always keep you in line. Your minder can also be a member of your family that has gone through family-based therapy on how to help you stay alcohol free.

Most importantly, you should consciously get help as soon you start seeing yourself thinking about drinking again. Spend time with people that support your recovery. Get counselling for mental health problems and then join meetings and support groups close to you and take part in all of their activities.

Stay away from friends and family who are a source of encouragement for your irresponsible use of alcohol. To avoid this temptation, you need to stay away from gatherings where alcohol is bound to be served. Take all alcohol out of your home as well and ensure no one brings any to where you can see them.


FAQs

Why is Drinking Alcohol Dangerous for my Foetus?

Drinking alcohol is dangerous for your foetus because it exposes it to a wide range of problems that can affect its development. These problems are very dangerous because they do not have any cure and can remain with the baby even into adulthood. Unfortunately, many foetuses exposed to alcohol end up as stillbirths or end in sudden infant death syndrome when they are born.

What Is Foetal Alcohol Syndrome?

Foetal alcohol syndrome is one of the most severe problems associated with alcohol use. In babies with FAS, a wide range of facial abnormalities are seen such as: narrow eye openings, smooth area between lip and nose, thin upper lip etc. Babies with FAS can also develop problems in the central nervous system which could end up with abnormalities

such as small head circumference and general dysfunction of the central nervous system.

Is There an Amount of Alcohol that is Safe to Drink During Pregnancy?

No. There is no specific amount of alcohol that is safe to drink during pregnancy. This is because every case of pregnancy will vary. A specified unit may be fine for a particular mother and foetus but it won’t be for another. The lack of unifying research on this front is why medical guidelines recommend complete abstinence from alcohol during pregnancy.

What Can you Do to Stop Abusing Alcohol?

To stop abusing alcohol, you need to get help from an alcohol addiction treatment centre. They are the best place for you to go to quit your alcohol problem and avoid endangering you and your baby’s health as a result of withdrawal symptoms.

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