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Alcohol During Pregnancy

Can one drink alcohol during pregnancy? A healthy woman without dependencies is unlikely to ask this question. Alcohol is harmful even to a healthy individual without specific conditions, and for an expectant mother, it is completely banned. Corresponding alerts can be showcased on posters in women’s health clinics and even on labels of alcoholic beverages.

Nevertheless, many women continue to consume alcohol, citing various explanations such as “low-alcohol beverages are harmless” or “infrequent consumption won’t harm neither me nor the baby.” These myths often jeopardize the health of the unborn child, so in this article, we will examine the impact of alcohol on the health of both the mother and the baby, specifying the harm of alcohol during pregnancy.

Can one drink alcohol during pregnancy?

Safe dose of alcohol does not exist – this is the unanimous message from doctors. However, for a woman who is accustomed to unwinding with the help of alcohol, giving it up during pregnancy can be a significant challenge.

One argument in favor of this lifestyle is the belief that a small amount of alcohol does not do any harm. It is often reinforced by stories of familiar mothers – friends and relatives – who consumed alcohol and gave birth to healthy children. There are exceptions to every rule, and, moreover, we cannot know for certain whether they actually consumed alcohol and in what quantities. It is important to remember that an outwardly healthy infant does not necessarily mean they were not affected by alcohol. Some aspects of mental and physical health may manifest themselves at a later age. For example, children of mothers who drank alcohol more often exhibit delays in psychospeech development.

There is a common myth that only women from disadvantaged social backgrounds, suffering from socio-economic instability, consume alcohol during pregnancy. However, even successful and affluent expectant mothers who demonstrate more conscientiousness in parenting equally put their future children at risk.

Today, there is no known truly safe amount of alcohol, so it is essential to eliminate alcohol consumption at the stage of planning pregnancy. If not, it is necessary to abstain from alcoholic beverages once you become aware of your pregnancy.

Alcohol in the first trimester of pregnancy

Planning a pregnancy is the best thing you can do for the health of your future baby. However, unplanned pregnancies are not uncommon, and during this period when a woman is unaware of conception, she may continue her usual lifestyle without any restrictions.

A future mother typically learns about her pregnancy only around the 4th or 5th week of gestation, which is when her expected menstruation does not come. 

The effect of alcohol on the fetus in the First 10-12 days

There is a myth that the embryo is not connected to the mother’s body before attaching to the uterine wall, and therefore, it cannot be harmed by alcohol. However, it is crucial to understand that alcohol consumption and the associated intoxication can prevent the embryo from attaching at all.

Ethanol stimulates active secretion by the fallopian tubes. As a result, the fertilized egg remains in the tube, leading to an ectopic pregnancy, which necessitates immediate surgical intervention.

Between days 5 and 13, the fertilized egg forms the chorion, a villous membrane. Alcohol during this period can lead to the death of the fertilized egg, and upon embryo attachment, it can cause a spontaneous miscarriage.

At this stage, alcohol cannot yet trigger severe developmental defects in the fetus, but it significantly increases the risk of miscarriage. In other words, if you consumed alcohol without knowing about the pregnancy, it is not a reason for miscarriage. 

The effect of alcohol after 13 days of conception

By this time, the fertilized egg is already attached to the mother’s body through the bloodstream. Alcohol consumption causes vessel constriction, resulting in the embryo receiving inadequate nutrients and oxygen, which can lead to developmental delays.

The first trimester is a crucial period during which organ and system development takes place. The toxic effects of alcohol can cause tissue development abnormalities.

The formation of the baby’s facial features is a process that can also be influenced by alcohol. Alcohol can lead to developmental defects such as cleft lip or cleft palate.

Generally speaking, the most common pathologies associated with alcohol consumption during the first trimester include:

  • Developmental abnormalities of the reproductive organs;
  • Brain and spinal cord function disorders;
  • Nervous system damage.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or FAS is a complex of psychophysical developmental deviations in children related to the mother’s alcohol consumption before and during pregnancy. These deviations include brain development pathologies (microcephaly, hydrocephalus, etc.), nervous system disorders, mental retardation, reduced intelligence, growth delays, specific facial structure characteristics. Such children have difficulty learning basic skills, suffer from memory and attention problems, and may require specialized education. They are prone to deviant behavior.

It has not been determined what exactly plays a key role in the development of FAS – the quantity, frequency, or timing of alcohol consumption. However, even in the absence of FAS, the consumption of alcohol in small amounts during pregnancy carries the risk of developing fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

During the first trimester, alcohol consumption in any amount is not permissible. If a woman is not addicted but simply desires to drink, it is possible that she has a deficiency in essential substances such as vitamins, amino acids, or minerals. A lack of specific micronutrients may lead to unusual eating behaviors and a desire to consume alcohol. In this case, it is important to consult a doctor and undergo necessary examinations. 

Is champagne allowed during pregnancy?

No, as champagne is a harmful beverage. Besides alcohol, it contains a significant amount of sugar and carbon dioxide bubbles. This beverage is prohibited for individuals with digestive system disorders. It increases the acidity of gastric juice, irritates the mucous membrane, puts a heavy load on the pancreas, and, in large quantities, affects the nervous system.

Is beer allowed during pregnancy?

No, just like champagne, beer is also prohibited during pregnancy. Originally, the composition of beer included malt, hops, water, and brewer’s yeast. Taking a few sips of such a beverage was likely safe for a pregnant woman and her future child. However, today, finding such a product is impossible – beer contains ethyl alcohol, higher alcohols, phytoestrogens, polyphenol derivatives, dyes, preservatives, food foaming agents, and low-quality, cheap beverages and hop oils. There will be no benefits from such beer, which previously did contain certain vitamins. For the same reason, it is not recommended to consume non-alcoholic beer. 

Is wine allowed during pregnancy?

No. A doctor might allow one or two sips on special occasions, but more than that is too much.

Doctors unanimously agree that alcohol is harmful during pregnancy. However, debates about whether expectant mothers can occasionally consume minimal amounts of alcohol continue. Some specialists believe that a glass of good wine after the 16th week of pregnancy will not harm if the mother does not consume alcohol regularly.

In this matter, it is important to distinguish between the normal cravings of a pregnant woman, her dietary preferences, and pathological cravings. If a woman led a sober lifestyle and had no addictions before pregnancy, occasional consumption of a small amount of alcohol may not be harmful.

If a pregnant woman abused alcohol before conception, did not plan her pregnancy, and did not overcome her addiction, even small doses of alcohol can be fatal.

If you are planning a pregnancy but want to overcome alcohol addiction or feel that you need professional help, please contact the IsraRehab clinic.

We are located 30 minutes away from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Our patients enjoy daily walks in our own fruit orchards, trips to the sea, pool and sauna visits, and tourist excursions throughout Israel. Each patient in the center lives in home-like conditions – in comfortable rooms with all amenities.

The daily menu includes fresh vegetables and fruits, healthy and nutritious dishes.

Our patients spend their free time playing billiards, table tennis, engaging in sports in equipped halls, including with a personal instructor.

The duration of rehabilitation depends on your condition, the stage of addiction, and the dynamics of recovery. The cost of one month of treatment is 6000€. For more information, questions, or if you want to schedule a consultation, please contact the provided phone number or use messaging apps like WhatsApp, Viber, or Skype.

The article was verified by a practical psychologist

Psychology teacher,
art therapist

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