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To drink or not to drink (alcohol) that is the question for pregnant women

tonotdrinkwomen.jpgSome women do it. Some don’t. Some doctors allow it if done in moderation. Some demand zero tolerance. I am referring to drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

A recent report in ABCNews highlights the ongoing controversy over alcohol intake during pregnancy and the fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

What is FAS?
When we drink, our body gets rid of alcohol through the liver. During pregnancy, alcohol in the blood goes through the placenta and into the fetus. However, a fetus` liver is not well-developed enough to get rid of alcohol. Alcohol build-up in the fetus` system can affect the development of the brain, the heart, and many other vital organs, resulting in FAS. FAS may manifest in physical, mental, and psychological problems in the baby.

According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, the incidence of FAS is between 2.8 and 4.8 per 1000 live births. However, it could be as high as 43 per 1000 live births among heavy drinkers.

So why the controversy and the divergent views?
Unlike conditions like diabetes or cardiovascular problems, there is simply very little research and documentation done on FAS.

Alcohol affects people in different ways depending on body weight, genetics, general health status, but also the time of the day and the type and amount of food intake. Alcohol’s effects on the fetus depend on the amount and the frequency of intake, and the stage of pregnancy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, FAS usually occurs at the early stages of pregnancy when the baby’s organs are developing. But, it is not necessarily diagnosed immediately at birth but only months, even years later.

Alcohol is supposedly healthy when taken in moderation. The question is, how do we define ‘moderation?’ A glass of red wine, a bottle of beer, a shot of whisky?

In other words, we simply do not know enough about this problem to say what is right and what is wrong. And it’s not something we can test by simple trial-and-error. Or is it?

Personally, when it comes to my child’s well-being, I’d rather err on the side of caution.

What about you?

Reading resources:

Canadian Paediatric Society

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Handbook, University of South Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

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