Alcohol and Pregnancy
Alcohol is one of the most widely used drugs in the world and the health risks associated with its use are well established. It is also a teratogen, a substance that can cause damage to the developing foetus. Unfortunately, alcohol is chemically very similar to other useful substances found in the body and therefore the placenta does not filter it out. This means that any alcohol consumed during pregnancy passes directly into the fetus with the potential to interfere with developmental processes.
All stages of pregnancy are susceptible to damage from alcohol and there is no safe amount that can be consumed.
Though alcohol use can damage the fetus at any time during pregnancy the first few weeks are particularly vulnerable. This is because the organs of the body including the brain are at their earliest stages of development and damage at this time can be significant.
Though the majority of women tend to avoid alcohol when expecting a baby there are a significant number who consumed alcohol before discovering their pregnancy. This is particularly so for unplanned pregnancies. In studies, people tend to under estimate the amount of alcohol they consume and so it is difficult when conducting research on alcohol during pregnancy to get accurate data. Equally, women who gave up alcohol for the pregnancy rarely report their drinking habits before discovering their pregnancy. What this means is that the impact of consuming any alcohol any time during pregnancy is likely to be understated in studies of child development and behavioural conditions.
Children with FASD are often described as:
Children with FASD have an increased likelihood of having additional health issues such as problems with: