If you're pregnant, don't drink alcohol
Early this summer the news media reported that studies in Denmark indicated that low to moderate consumption of alcohol by pregnant women may not be so risky as to affect an unborn child's development. But before you decide to go out to party, you should read the small print.
What happens when a breast-feeding mom eats green beans? The baby gets a belly ache from gas. What Mom eats does affect Baby.
What happens when a pregnant mom drinks alcohol in any amount? The alcohol is carried through the umbilical cord to the baby. Mom's addiction can become Baby's addiction.
If you visit online at www.babycenter.com, you can watch a simulation of pregnancy in a collection of beautifully done videos that take only minutes to view. Within the first week of pregnancy two groups of cells form: inner (what becomes the baby) and outer (the placenta that provides protection and life support for Baby throughout the pregnancy.) Everything the mother consumes-food, medication, abused substances-is passed through the umbilical cord to the baby. Those things affect cell structures in developing organs.
By week five, before most women know they are pregnant, the primitive organs are formed, as well as the circulatory system. The brain and heart are developing and facial features are recognizable. By week nine, the baby may be only the size of a grape, but there is a defined human developing within the mom.
During weeks 10 to 14 fetal development is ongoing. The brain, intestines, liver and nervous system are active and vital organs are functioning. As the second trimester comes on the lungs develop and in the third trimester, the brain.
There is so much going on inside that tiny being that we, in the outside world, don't realize or appreciate what is happening because we can't see it. When a substance is abused and added to what is already taking place within the unborn child, the child's well being is put in certain peril.
Despite the results of the studies in Denmark, which were funded mostly by the American CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), that agency strongly advises that no amount of alcohol consumption by a pregnant woman is safe. The CDC urges that women who are pregnant, think they are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should abstain from drinking alcohol in any amount.
Why is alcohol consumption during pregnancy so risky?
The face, heart and urogenital tract (the connected organs that work together) in humans appear to be particularly sensitive to alcohol-induced malformations, writes Susan M. Smith, Ph.D. in her article, "Alcohol-Induced Cell Death in the Embryo." The development occurs during those early weeks before the woman knows she is pregnant. Smith writes, "For example, alcohol is most likely to cause heart defects during the time when cellular signals are directing the heart's division into its various chambers and great vessels, starting at 4 weeks after fertilization."
She later says, "the causative relationship between alcohol and cell death is reinforced by the fact that several alcohol-affected embryonic tissues later result in body structures that exhibit malformations consistent with under development."
What that means is that alcohol consumption during pregnancy affects how your baby's brain, heart, and other organs are going to develop before they are born. Cells are killed, the organs retarded from proper growth and development.
One of the consequences of drinking alcohol during pregnancy is FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). FASDs are lifetime disorders that cause physical problems and/or behavior and learning problems. Sometimes the consequences of drinking alcohol during pregnancy are devastating because the child will need special care for all of their lifetime. FASD is the only form of mental retardation that can be prevented by just not consuming alcohol during pregnancy.
Learn more about FASDs online at www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/facts.html.
Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and other mental health issues. For more information contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County and ODADAS (Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services).