Drinking alcohol during pregnancy

Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy? Is It Really Safe For The Child?

Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy? Is It Really Safe For The Child?

To cherish the beauty of motherhood, a mother needs to make some hard choices, mostly for the wellbeing of their little ones. The arduous yet wonderful journey of pregnancy comes with a long list of Dos and Don’ts. And one of the top spots on the Don’ts list is acquired by ‘Drinking Alcohol’.

Alcohol use during pregnancy is one of the most frequently asked questions on the internet. The answers might be very confusing sometimes. While some experts suggest that little alcohol does not harm, it is widely believed by experts that maintaining distance with alcohol is best for both, the mother and the child.

Impact of Alcohol Before Pregnancy

Should You Drink Alcohol When Trying to Conceive?

 Alcohol impacts everyone in different ways but there’s no doubt that alcohol works as a negative force on the efforts of conceiving. It has been proven that alcohol leaves a significant impact on the fertility of both men and women. Heavy drinking of women can lead to irregularity in the cycle, ovulation, and ovarian reserve. And for men, studies have shown decreasing hormones required for sperm production. This is why it is always highly recommended to both men and women to stay away from alcohol when trying to conceive.

Does Alcohol Affect Fertility?

 The answer is loud and clear - Yes, it does. We often contemplate how alcohol affects pregnancy. But parents planning for a baby must understand how alcohol starts to impact the body negatively even before pregnancy and heavy drinking may lead to infertility too.

Let’s see how alcohol causes infertility?

Female Fertility –

Alcohol consumption affects female fertility by –

  • It lowers the estrogen level and increases the testosterone levels in the female body.
  • It interrupts the menstrual cycle and causes irregularity.
  • Also changes the hormone levels of estradiol and luteinizing.
  • Drinking may lead to anovulation which is the absence of ovulation and may cause infertility.

Male Fertility –

Drinking impacts male fertility adversely by – 

  • Decreasing the required level of testosterone and increasing the estrogen hormone level.
  • It lowers the luteinizing hormone level and follicle-stimulating hormone level too.
  • Sperm production gets impacted as drinking changes the gonadotropin release.
  • It also changes the shape, size, and movement of healthy sperm.
  • Drinking may also lead to early or lowering ejaculations.
  • It may also shrink the testes leading to infertility or impotence.

How Drinking Habit of the Father Contributes Adversely to Baby’s Health?

As we already know that alcohol adversely affects male fertility too. But alcohol does not stop here only. A Father’s habit of drinking affects the good health of the child too. A man’s habit of alcohol consumption before conception increases the chances of fetal birth defects. The regular drinking habits of a father lead to serious consequences like congenital heart disease, limb anomalies, clefts, and digestive tract anomalies.

Experts have revealed that drinking alcohol regularly by a man affects the shape, size, and motility of sperm cells. Alcohol consumption also may alter the father’s DNA and be inherited by the child. But the bad effects of alcohol on sperm cells are not permanent. Sperm cells take 3 months to become healthy again, which is why it is advised to stop consumption of alcohol 3 months before pregnancy.

Impact of Alcohol During Pregnancy

Possible Risks To Baby’s Health

The habit of alcohol drinking while pregnant may bring some grave risks for the baby’s health. The grave consequences of heavy drinking during pregnancy might be miscarriage, stillbirth. Also, there are chances of disabilities like physical, intellectual, and behavioral to the baby that may last for a lifetime. These disabilities are often addressed as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders aka FASDs.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are a group of disabilities that may occur to a person if he/she was exposed to alcohol before their birth.

Some of the FASDs disabilities are –

  • Low IQ
  • Speech and language problem
  • Hyperactivity
  • Problem with learning
  • Difficulty in being attentive
  • Poor judgment skills
  • Deficiency of reasoning skills
  • Low body weight
  • Difficulty in school especially with Math
  • Poor memory

Because of these such grave and huge risk factors, experts always suggest that during pregnancy, it is better to restrain from alcohol completely. Even a little amount of alcohol may impact the unborn child’s heart and liver badly. When a pregnant mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy, the alcohol passes from the blood through the placenta to the baby. And the liver of a baby is one of the last developing organs that does not mature enough until the last stages of pregnancy. This is why drinking alcohol during the first 3 months of pregnancy leads to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birthweight. While drinking post 3 months of pregnancy may adversely affect the baby’s health after the birth.

The Harm Alcohol Does on Pregnant Mother

Drinking while pregnant not only affects the baby’s health, it can leave a grave impact on the health of the mother too. Women pursuing their drinking habit, even after the pregnancy is summoning a great danger for themselves and for their child too. They put their health at risk too by consuming alcohol.

  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • High blood pressure
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Gestational diabetes

Other than these, grave dangers like miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery also exist if the drinking habit is not put on a hold.

Is Little Occasional Drinking Allowed During Pregnancy?

How much drinking is okay during pregnancy is still unknown. Alcohol reacts to different bodies differently. There are several cases where a mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy and delivered a healthy child whereas a mother who consumed very little alcohol delivered a child with severe FASDs. This is why experts always suggest staying completely away from alcohol to be safe.

Then what to drink while pregnant?

Well, there are plenty of drinks available that not only satiate you but are healthy alternatives. Remember, anything you intake during pregnancy, is not only consumed by you but your child also.

1. Water -

Your go-to beverage during your pregnancy days should be water. Your daily water intake should be six to eight ounces glasses per day normally. But during pregnancy, you need to add at least one extra glass of water to quench your and your child’s thirst equally and to keep both of you hydrated enough.

2. Milk -

Pasteurized milk is a very healthy option for pregnant women. Pasteurized milk is suggested because the pasteurization process kills all the dangerous bacteria. But if you are lactose intolerant then you should opt for a non-dairy product like soy milk or almond milk.

3. Herbal Tea -

True tea like green or black tea contains caffeine. And caffeine intake too should be limited for pregnant mothers. Herbal teas are always recommended as a beverage during pregnancy as it does not have caffeine in it.

4. Juice -

Vegetable juice made at home is a very good option for pregnant women. It provides all the required nutrients to the body. If purchased from the market, then always opt for pasteurized vegetable juices. Similarly, fruit juices, like strawberry, guava, pomegranate, orange have proven to be beneficial during pregnancy. But consult your doctor before having fruits like papaya, pineapple to avoid premature contractions. Also, some say to stay away from grapes during the final trimester as they generate immense heat in the body.

Can You Eat Food Prepared with Alcohol During Pregnancy?

It is a very common question that occurs in every pregnant woman’s mind. But the answer is not a simple one. There are several finger-licking dishes available but not each of them is consumable during pregnancy. During pregnancy, women can eat most of the dishes made with alcohol as it gets reduced during cooking. But it is best to avoid some foods during pregnancy, especially desserts made with a large amount of alcohol.

Let’s have some look at those dishes which can be gobbled during pregnancy -

  • Desserts – There are several desserts like cakes, ice creams, tiramisu, cheesecakes, and other desserts that are made with a small amount of alcohol. The amount of alcohol in such desserts is insignificant enough to get consumed during pregnancy.
  • Sauce – Pasta sauces, red wine or white wine sauces, custard infused with whiskey, chocolate sauces consisting of rum, brandy, etc contain a low amount of alcohol that is not harmful during pregnancy.
  • Wine-based dishes – Marsala, risotto, any food stewed in red or white wine are low on alcohol which makes them consumable during pregnancy.
  • Beer-infused Dishes – Beer contains a very low amount of alcohol in it. And when cooked, the alcohol is reduced at a very low level which is why dishes cooked with beer are edible too during pregnancy.

So, how soon post-delivery is it safe for mothers to start drinking?

Impact of Alcohol Post Pregnancy

Alcohol affects various parts of a woman’s body when she drinks during pregnancy. Alcohol can pass from her bloodstream to her breast milk and affect her baby's health as well as their health after birth is considered safe for both mother and child. However, drinking during breastfeeding may affect how much milk your baby gets per feeding or reduce breastfeeding altogether, which could put your baby at risk for health problems down the line like poor nutrition and obesity. Overconsumption of alcohol during breastfeeding may lead to decreased milk production. It can also affect a baby’s sleep pattern and lead to early development too.

So till you breastfeed your baby, the good habit of staying away from alcohol should be continued.

It is quite clear that to avoid any kind of complication, it is better to avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy. It is also suggested to cease alcohol consumption by both the partners 3 months before pregnancy. Experts also do not permit drinking to breastfeeding mothers to ensure the baby’s health and safety. It is also recommended for fathers to avoid heavy drinking post-pregnancy as the babies tend to get attracted towards their parents’ natural smell but alcohol can overpower it. Besides, stay away from heavy drinking for your good health. Because the healthier the parents are, the better caregivers they can be.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Article by - Kanan Rathi



About Me

Hi, I am Ekta Dharap, a mom of a tiny tod. I have learnt that to take optimum care of your little one, it's imperative to first take care of your own wellness and well-being. Besides, our children look up to us, and how we treat ourselves. This makes putting self care as top priority, without an ounce of guilt.

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