Many women who are expecting will indulge in the occasional glass of wine
during pregnancy, thinking it won't do much harm. But a new report
from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pregnant women
abstain from alcohol completely.
"There are many birth defects and disabilities stemming from fetal
alcohol exposure, which are easily avoided if women don't drink during
their pregnancies," says
Lina Wong, DO, a board-certified OB/GYN at
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group. "In fact, the study says it's the leading preventable cause
of birth defects and disabilities."
The term "fetal alcohol spectrum disorder" is an umbrella term
that covers a wide range of issues that can affect babies whose mothers
drank during pregnancy. "The problems that may result from fetal
alcohol spectrum disorder can manifest in a number of ways," Dr.
Wong says. "Physically, the baby may be shorter than average, have
a small head, weigh less than normal or have unusual facial structure.
Behaviorally, they can be hyperactive or struggle with attention deficit.
There may also be developmental delays when it comes to speech, learning
or neurological function. There can also be defects with the heart, bones
or kidneys. Fetal alcohol syndrome may well be the most known type of
fetal alcohol spectrum disorder."
The best course of action, Dr. Wong says, is to cut out beer, wine and
spirits altogether--not just during pregnancy, but also if you expect
to become pregnant. "Because no one can say how much alcohol is 'safe'
to consume while carrying a child, the most prudent course of action is
to avoid it altogether. When it comes to fetal alcohol exposure, it's
better to be safe than sorry."
What's more, most of these are lifelong problems, although early treatment,
especially before the age of 6, can help in some cases. "If you have
any concerns, you should discuss them with your pediatrician immediately,"
Dr. Wong says. "Don't be scared or embarrassed--the earlier the
intervention, the better."
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