It may not seem like a big deal, but doctors have pleaded with soon-to-be mothers to stop drinking alcohol while pregnant.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a message that it hopes will ring clear: pregnant woman should not drink alcohol, ever. According to a report from CNN, the group is attempting to lay the debate to rest, as alcohol can have devastating effects on a developing fetus.
According to the group’s statement, “No amount of alcohol should be considered safe to drink during any trimester of pregnancy.” The report listed exposure to alcohol as the leading cause of a wide range of prenatal birth defects, as well as the development of mental issues later on in life.
According to the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking, health agencies in the majority of countries around the world recommend the same, with the exception of the United Kingdom and Italy. Both countries say that if a woman must absolutely have a drink while pregnant, it should be limited to one drink once or twice each week.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also issued statements urging pregnant woman to refrain from drinking alcohol. According to Dr. Cheryl Tan from the CDC, “There is no safe amount, no safe time, and no safe type of alcohol to drink during pregnancy.” During a 2011-2013 study, Tan found that one in 10 pregnant women reported drinking alcohol in the past month, and one in 33 reported binge drinking.
Drinking during pregnancy increases the risk of a wide range of health problems, including complications with sight and hearing, the heart, bones, and kidneys. Children who were exposed to alcohol as fetuses are more likely to have issues with abstract reasoning, processing information, and are likely to suffer from ADHD.
Women who drank alcohol in the first trimester of their pregnancy are 12 times more likely to have a child that suffers from these issues. Drinking in the first and second trimester increased these risks by a factor of 61, and drinking during all three trimesters increased the risk 65 times over.
Exposure to alcohol slows the development of the cerebellum in a fetus, which is the hub of motor control and various information processing functions in the brain.
While some studies suggest that a moderate level of alcohol exposure is not harmful, doctors warn that each person is different and will respond to alcohol in different ways. According to Dr. Janet F. Williams, one of the head authors of the recent report submitted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “The research suggests that the smartest choice for women who are pregnant is to just abstain from alcohol completely.”
Drinking during pregnancy is dangerous, and a leading national health organization would be remiss if they failed to adequately warn the public of the consequences.