I Drank Alcohol Before I Knew I Was Pregnant. Should I Be Worried?

What if you drink during pregnancy?

Should I Be Worried About My Baby’s Development Because I Drank Alcohol Before I Knew I Was Pregnant?

This issue has caused a lot debate in the medical community. The position of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has been and continues to remain that “no amount of alcohol consumption can be considered safe during pregnancy” in spite of any research to the contrary. That’s because drinking while pregnant is a well known cause of mental retardation and birth defects. In addition, using alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, and stillbirth. “The bottom line according to ACOG: Women should avoid alcohol entirely while pregnant or trying to conceive because damage can occur in the earliest weeks of pregnancy, even before a woman knows that she is pregnant.”

Is There Any Medical Association That Believes That Having Used Alcohol Before Knowing You Were Pregnant is Not Harmful to Your Baby?

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The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) says that women should feel comfortable that if they drank small amounts of alcohol in the early stages of their pregnancy it won’t cause harm to the fetus. This organizations also says that a single binge drinking event around the time of conception isn’t harmful either. However, SOGC goes on to add that heavy drinking and binge drinking while pregnant can harm the fetus and cause miscarriage. Therefore, it you think you might be pregnant, avoid drinking until you’re sure you aren’t.

Has There Been Any Research That Says That Light Drinking is Alright During Pregnancy?

A 2010 British study found that light drinking doesn’t cause any harm to children’s behavioral and intellectual development. The researchers used data from 11,513 children born between September 2000 and January 2002. The mothers of these children were interviewed about their drinking while pregnant when their children were nine months.

The mothers were broken down into the following groups:

  • Those who drank but not while pregnant
  • Light drinkers (1 or 2 drinks a week or at any one time)
  • Moderate drinkers (3 to 6 drinks a week or 3 to 5 at any one time)
  • Binge/heavy drinkers  (7 or more drinks a week or 6 at one sitting).

The researchers interviewed the mothers about their children’s behavior at the age of three, and the children’s behavioral and intellectual development were tested at the age of five. Children born to mothers who were heavy drinkers were more likely to be hyperactive, and have behavioral and emotional problems than children born to mothers  who didn’t drink during pregnancy. The researchers found no evidence that children born to mother who were light drinks has any behavioral or intellectual problems.

A 2012 study from the University of California, San Diego found that that alcohol use during the second half of the first trimester was most closely associated with birth defects. The researchers observed 992 women who were enrolled in the California Teratogen Information Service and Clinical Research Program between 1978 and 2005.  Every three months these women were interviewed about their use of alcohol, including  dates of use, how many drinks they had per day, how many binge episodes they took part in and maximum number of drinks. Data about their babies’ development was gathered after birth, and each newborn was then examined by a specialist in birth defects.

The researchers found that higher levels of alcohol exposure were significantly associated with a bigger risk of infants born smaller and lighter, having small heads and a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip. They also concluded that the greatest association birth defects and high alcohol consumption occurred 43 to 84 days after conception.

[Featured Image Courtesy of maya picture / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

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