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The Dangers of Drinking While Pregnant

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

March 13, 2024

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Although the dangers of drinking while pregnant are well-publicized, many women still consume alcohol. Unfortunately, this may be a sign of alcoholism. If you or a loved one need help fighting addiction, reach out to our California rehab today.

One study shows one in five pregnant respondents reported past-month alcohol use, with one in ten admitting to binge drinking.

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Today, we’ll examine the consequences of drinking alcohol while pregnant so you can make the best-informed decision for you and your baby.

Can You Drink While Pregnant?

Drinking while pregnant is inadvisable according to all major health bodies.

Guidelines vary slightly, but CDC recommendations are representative:

There’s no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy, or while trying to get pregnant. There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink. All types of alcohol are equally harmful, including all wines and beer.”

CDC adds that FASDs (fetal alcohol spectrum disorders) are preventable if you abstain from drinking alcohol when pregnant.

Drinking while pregnant causes the alcohol to pass through the umbilical cord. This can lead to:

  • Stillbirth
  • Miscarriage
  • FASDs

If consuming alcohol while pregnant triggers fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, this can result in a variety of lifelong disabilities, intellectual, behavioral, and physical.

Drinking while pregnant can also lead to the following adverse outcomes:

  • Increased risk of STIs
  • Falls or injuries leading to miscarriage
  • Malnutrition
  • Cancer
  • Seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Domestic violence or conflict
  • Problems at work
  • Driving under the influence

Women hoping to get pregnant may also find that alcohol abuse impacts fertility.

If you are pregnant or hoping to get pregnant and also abusing alcohol, speak with your primary healthcare provider. They can help you take steps to minimize your child being further exposed to alcohol in utero. 

Can You Drink Wine While Pregnant?

While it might seem normal for many expectant mothers to enjoy a glass of wine with friends, CDC guidelines make it clear that “all wines” are harmful.

It is not advisable to drink wine while pregnant.

an image of beer representing drinking while pregnant

How Bad is Drinking While Pregnant?

Drinking when pregnant is the leading cause of preventable birth defects. Birth defects result in structural changes to the body present at birth. This means that alcohol acts as a teratogen. A teratogen is an agent capable of triggering fetal abnormalities.

Consuming any amount of alcohol at any stage of pregnancy is associated with a heightened risk of FASDs.

Research shows that FASDs can manifest in any of the following forms:

  • Abnormal facial characteristics
  • Reduced head circumference
  • Below average weight and height
  • Bone issues
  • Kidney complications
  • Heart problems
  • Hearing and eyesight issues

The development of the fetus can be impaired due to alcohol consumption in weeks 3 through 16 of pregnancy. This is when major defects in the bodily structure of the fetus occur. Both the brain and spinal cord can be affected. Development of the arms, legs, ears, eyes, and heart can also be impacted if alcohol is consumed during this stage of pregnancy.

Drinking from week 6 to 12 of pregnancy can lead to problems with the teeth, palate, and genitals, according to the same data. These risks continue throughout pregnancy.

Studies show that consuming alcohol during pregnancy exponentially increases the risk of miscarriage.

Every pregnancy is different, so equal alcohol exposure can impact some babies more than others – even when the babies have the same mother. Also, some symptoms of FASDs do not manifest until childhood. Variables influencing the effects of alcohol on a developing fetus include:

  • Amount of alcohol consumed
  • Frequency of alcohol consumption
  • Stage of pregnancy alcohol is consumed
  • Development of fetus
  • Metabolism
  • Genetics

While it is possible for a woman with alcohol use disorder to deliver a healthy baby, consuming alcohol while pregnant almost always harms the fetus in some way, even at low levels.

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Overcoming Alcohol Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

If you are one of the 28.5 million people in the US with alcohol use disorder, especially if you are concerned about drinking while pregnant, we’re here to help at Renaissance Recovery Center.

Here at our Orange County alcohol rehab, you can benefit from a variety of outpatient programs to help you reclaim your life from alcoholism without heading to residential rehab. For anyone requiring more intensive outpatient therapy, we offer both IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and PHPs (partial hospitalization programs).

MAT (medication-assisted treatment) can help reduce the intensity of both cravings and withdrawal symptoms. MAT is delivered in combination with the following forms of therapy:

Following this evidence-based and whole-body approach to recovery from alcohol abuse, you’ll leave Renaissance with a robust aftercare plan and the foundation for lifelong sobriety in place. All you need to do is reach out to our California or Florida rehabs today at 866.330.9449.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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