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Pregnancy and alcohol – a dangerous cocktail

Published on November 10, 2016 at 9:55 / Updated on May 8, 2018 at 20:52

You’re pregnant (or working on it) and you’re at your best friend’s birthday party. Can you drink a toast to her health? How much alcohol is safe during pregnancy?

Every single health agency and learned society agrees on one point: Women who are pregnant or who are trying to conceive should not drink alcohol. Not one drop. Nada. Here’s why.

When mom drinks, so does the baby

Although the placenta can filter out certain substances to protect the baby, it cannot filter out alcohol. The alcohol consumed by the mother ends up in her blood and makes it through the placenta unimpeded, which means the alcohol is now in the baby’s blood as well.

Although a glass of wine may not seem much for an adult woman, it’s a lot of alcohol for a little budding human whose weight is measured in grams!

Alcohol is toxic to the fetus

Alcohol can affect fetal development and lead to various malformations and neurological problems (mental disability, learning difficulties, etc.). This risk increases with the amount consumed: the more the mother drinks, the greater the risk to the baby.

In severe cases, the child can be born with fetal alcohol syndrome, which involves growth delays, cognitive disturbances and specific facial features such as a flat face, short nose and the absence of a groove between the nose and upper lip.

Alcohol can put the whole pregnancy at risk

Women who drink alcohol during their pregnancy are at higher risk of having a miscarriage, premature birth or still-born baby.

Is there a “safe” amount of alcohol you can drink during pregnancy?

The simple answer is no. And no research can ever definitely answer the question because it would be immoral to submit pregnant women to a study where we would purposely put their baby at risk for severe complications.

Prospective studies (i.e. that look at past events) have determined that elevated alcohol consumption over a short period of time (e.g. 4 to 5 drinks in one evening) and moderate but regular consumption (1 to 2 drinks per day) are particularly harmful to the fetus.

Is it safer to drink in the third trimester?

No, alcohol is toxic to the baby throughout the pregnancy, even right near the end. Even though the body is formed enough to be born, it is still actively growing and alcohol can impair that growth.

In conclusion, in the absence of data that could establish a safe amount to drink during pregnancy, it is best to play it safe and avoid alcohol completely.

For more information, visit the Educ’Alcool website:

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