Remember partying it up back in the day? Whenever that was? I do. Remember all you learned? I don’t, and that’s because I drank tequila. But a sobering memory at a bar is what always flashes to my mind when I hear “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome…”
I was spending one of my usual nights out with my boyfriend and friends, surrounded by lights and clouds of smoke and sticky floors and happy dancing people. A friend and I grabbed our drinks off of the bar and danced our way over to our boyfriends. As we approached them, I remember catching a glimpse of my friend’s boyfriend’s face: disapproval. Skepticism. Questions. All directed at his girlfriend, a recent finder-outer that she had a baby on the way. “It’s just wine!” She told him, “The doctor said I can have two a day!” He rolled his eyes and we went back to living it up, but I remember taking in the scene for a second… working through my thoughts… I knew nothing about gestation except what you see from the cartoon characters in text books. But I knew that something about his uncertainty sparked something in my gut, though I knew no reason why… Until the time came for me to find out that I was growing my own little human. And thus began a new discovery of my own motherly instincts.
My friend wasn’t lying. She was not making up what her doctor said to get away with what she was doing. In fact, I’ve heard so many friends say how good it is for you to drink wine during pregnancy, or how a few beers are also okay (sure, they’re galactagogues, but that’s for another day). Now I’m all for natural remedies, but this one is pretty unanswered… So who has determined which one standard amount of wine or beer is okay for all growing embryos and fetuses and the uterus that surrounds them?
An OB’s or Midwife’s or Mother-In-Law’s permission to consume 1-2 glasses of wine or beers a day, week, month, or at all during pregnancy should be translated as: “1-2 glasses of wine is not going to totally guarantee Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), but nobody knows how much it will affect your fetus before PFAS/FAS is apparent!” This is the should-be translation because nobody knows how much alcohol affects your individual fetus before FAS is in effect..
Our grandmothers and great grandmothers may have been known for going out for a drink to celebrate the new baby to come! But while they were toasting to the bun in the oven, they were rolling the dice on sentencing a baby to FAS. This includes a small head, small eye openings, a flat midface, a short nose, and indistinct groove between nose and mouth, epicanthal folds (or, hooded eyes), a low nasal bridge, minor ear anomalies, and a thin upper lip. The child that is handed this preventable fate is not likely to outgrow any of these features, and will spend his or her entire life with a strange face per the effects of exposure to alcohol in the womb. Additionally, a baby that suffered FAS will be smaller, have a lower birth weight, and their physical growth will lag behind children of the same age.
While surgeries might be able to fix facial abnormalities in a person, FAS has many more disturbing effects. Excessive irritability, hyperactivity, seizures, and tremors are all likely amongst newborns with FAS. There are many signs of damage to the central nervous system, resulting in low IQ scores throughout childhood and adolescence, and many are even mentally retarded. ADHD and ADD are also common amongst these babies. Longitudinal studies even show that children born with FAS are extremely likely to have mental health problems later in life, to get in trouble at school, break the law, and experience job-related problems.
Depending on the amount of alcohol the mother drinks, the pattern in which she drinks the alcohol, the stage of pregnancy, and the way the mother’s body metabolizes alcohol are all very important key factors in determining the effects of FAS or the effects on the fetus before FAS is apparent. The more the mother drinks, the more likely FAS is to be present. That’s obvious. But how much is too much? What is a safe amount? A safe amount is not a drop. No fermented beverage. No sip. That’s the only amount that studies can prove will NOT give a child FAS. In fact, less than one ounce a day puts the fetus at risk of being sluggish or placid, and even a below-average mental development. Even when the fetus is exposed to less than one drink per week, she is at risk for mental health problems during childhood. I have yet to find anything that guarantees any set amount of what causes FAS per weight/height/hydration/1000otherfactors. Since there’s no cutoff, why should pregnant women be guided by a “guess” amount?
There is NO period of “safety” for drinking during pregnancy; the entire period of gestation is risky. Bottom line, ask your OB to visit current studies- because maybe things have changed. Not to mention, if you decide to drink, know that different alcohols play different roles, and that it’s easy to let yourself get away!
Need other ways to relax? Check this out…
Just go outside! It’s raining? Well then check this out…
Still nothing? Try being calm! I was a wound up, high strung pregnant woman that worked full time past my due date, went to school full time until my due date, and now I have a wound up, high strung toddler that never stops demanding. And doesn’t sleep. And throws tantrums often. And he’s beautiful and sweet and wildly absorbent. I have absolutely no proof of a correlation between all that, but I figured this post is already LONG so I may as well ramble. Ha! Seriously, stay away from the booze until we have more concrete proof.