Drinking during pregnancy is risky. The unborn child could suffer physical defects and learning or behaviour disorders, problems that will persist throughout life. Early diagnosis can help limit the extent of these problems, but doctors believe that the disease is not adequately diagnosed among some children.
Babies exposed to alcohol during pregnancy can be smaller at birth and have slight facial differences (e.g. small, narrow-set eyes, thin or flat upper lip). Some babies who are exposed to large quantities of alcohol go through withdrawal symptoms before they leave the hospital. These babies are often identified within the first days of life. Not all children with fetal alcohol syndrome present with these physical characteristics, however.
According to certain pediatricians, the challenge in diagnosing the syndrome is due to the behavioural repercussions involved. Young children with the syndrome are often hyperactive and unable to follow simple instructions. They may have retarded development and are very friendly, even with strangers. School-aged children can have learning, attention and behaviour difficulties in class, as well as educational retardation. Unfortunately, these signs are all-too-often confused with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which has a different treatment.
Prevention remains the best way to reduce the frequency of this handicapping syndrome. When a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy, the alcohol is transmitted directly to the baby through the placenta’s bloodstream. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can produce the whole range of disorders caused by fetal alcohol syndrome. The more alcohol the pregnant woman drinks, the more damage the baby can suffer. Since it is not yet known whether there is a safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, it is best to refrain entirely for the complete gestation period. Among other findings, we know that a single instance of drinking at least five alcoholic drinks is very dangerous for the unborn child.
If you are considering becoming pregnant, it’s best to stop drinking now. And if you’re already pregnant, it’s not too late to stop. If you’re having problems stopping, speak to your doctor. Each drink you turn down is a gift to your child. Fathers-to-be, friends and family can help the woman maintain her willpower by not drinking during the pregnancy also.