The Hidden Dangers of Alcohol During Pregnancy

Alcohol’s effect on fertility, pregnancy, and baby is under-reported and under-discussed sue social stigma. In the USA, 13.5% of pregnant adults reported current drinking, and India might not be far behind. Children born to women who consume significant quantities of alcohol during pregnancy had multiple health problems and have been published in scientific journals over 40 years ago. Alcohol crosses the placenta and reaches the baby. Alcohol is known to be a teratogen (an agent or factor which causes the malformation of an embryo.

Effects of alcohol on the fetus

Effects of alcohol on the fetus, especially heavy alcohol intake, can cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)there is much debate about whether there is a safe lower limit. Hence alcohol is a teratogen. As with other teratogens, the fetus is more vulnerable in the first trimester, and there may also be an increased risk in the third trimester of pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome is the leading cause of non-genetic intellectual disability in developed countries.

Why do we not have accurate data about alcohol?

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy may lead to severe fetal damage, such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Wassenaar S et al., in their 2016 publication, reported that pregnant women under-report their alcohol consumption to questionnaires because of the social stigma and shame associated with drinking during pregnancy. Therefore, it is necessary to use objective biomarkers, such as blood or hair samples, to determine the actual level of alcohol exposure during pregnancy.

Screening for maternal alcohol consumption.

Two screening questionnaires T–ACE and TWEAK, have been developed in the US to establish levels of alcohol consumption in pregnant women. The care provider can estimate the risk using this questionnaire and provide advice.

Advice for pregnant women.

As per RCOG (2015) (Royal College of obstetrician and gynaecologist) for pregnant women in the UK, is that “while the safest approach may be to avoid any alcohol intake during pregnancy, In the US, the Surgeon general (2005) has recommended complete abstinence during pregnancy for many years.

Finally, Research is needed to establish the true incidence of fetal alcohol syndrome, particularly the milder forms, and to establish the most effective screening tools and interventions in pregnancy.

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