Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Drinking endangers your growing baby in a number of ways: It increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. As little as one drink a day can raise the odds for low birth weight and raise your child's risk for problems with learning, speech, attention span, language, and hyperactivity. And some research has shown that expectant moms who have as little as one drink a week are more likely than nondrinkers to have children who later exhibit aggressive and delinquent behavior.
"Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders" (FASD) is the term experts use to describe the range of problems related to alcohol exposure before birth. The most severe result of alcohol use is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), a lifelong condition characterized by poor growth (in the womb, after birth, or both), abnormal facial features, and damage to the central nervous system.
Babies with FAS may also have abnormally small heads and brains, as well as heart, spine, and other anatomical defects. The central nervous system damage may include mental retardation, delays in physical development, vision and hearing problems, and a variety of behavioral problems.
Frequent drinking (seven or more drinks per week, including mixed drinks, wine, and beer) or binge drinking (four or more drinks on any one occasion) greatly increases the risk that your baby will suffer from FAS. But babies whose moms drink less can also develop this syndrome. And babies exposed to alcohol before birth, even if they don't have full-blown FAS may still be born with some of these birth defects or later exhibit a number of mental, physical, or behavioral problems.