Did you know that 40,000 babies are born each year with a disorder caused by alcohol? These disorders are called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders (FASD), and they’re completely preventable. If you’re pregnant or think you may be, there’s no safe amount of alcohol you can drink to prevent FASD. Alcohol and babies simply do not mix.
Disorders Caused by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
FASD causes a whole range of disorders, and none are curable. Once your baby has them, he has them for life. These can include:
- Learning disabilities
- Speech delays
- Low IQ
- Poor reasoning skills
- Heart or kidney problems
- Problems with vision or hearing
- Poor coordination
- Poor memory
- Facial abnormalities
- Low birth weight
Some disorders, such as low weight and smaller-the-average head size, are present and distinguishable at birth. Others may become apparent as your child grows. Children born with FASD may have problems in school, both with learning and getting along with others. Along with everything else FASD causes, it can also affect your child’s mood, behavior and social skills.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Can Be Fatal
Infant mortality tops the long list of ways FASD may affect your child. Infants die every day in America from complications caused by alcohol consumption. And even those who survive have a decreased life expectancy of around 34 years.
There’s No “Safe” Alcohol
There’s no way to drink safely during pregnancy. All alcoholic beverages, including wine and mixed drinks, contain more alcohol than an infant should have, and if you’re drinking while pregnant, your baby is drinking too. The alcohol you ingest passes directly to your baby through the umbilical cord, so even a small sip of wine impacts your unborn child.
Be safe, and don’t drink alcohol if you think you may be pregnant.
It’s Not Too Late
If you’re pregnant and still drinking alcohol, it’s not too late to stop today. The sooner you stop drinking, the better it will be for both you and your baby. Your doctor can help point you in the right direction, so can any nearby clinics, hospitals or urgent care facilities. SAMHSA also publishes a Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator that’s searchable by state.
If you need help to stop drinking during pregnancy and you’re uninsured or underinsured, you can still find assistance. Many states have free or sliding-scale treatment options for substance use disorder that involves alcohol. Be honest and open with your doctor during your initial exam, and ask them to recommend help with treatment, or call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
You don’t have to stop drinking alcohol all by yourself. There’s help to be had, but you have to be honest with your doctor about how much you’re drinking, and you have to ask for it if you need it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publishes a hand-out that may help. This print-out has links to various organizations that you can contact for more information.
September is FASD Awareness Month. Celebrate it by taking the best possible care of yourself and your unborn baby.
Additional Resources and Reading
NOFAS Information and Resource Clearinghouse
AAP Says No Amount of Alcohol Should be Considered Safe During Pregnancy