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Pregnancy Bliss | Reproductive Health Hub

Continued from previous page

Is fetal alcohol syndrome that serious?

There is no doubt about it. In the USA, fetal alcohol syndrome is the leading documented cause of mental retardation.

That is the baby; what about the mother?

Excessive alcohol consumption has all the dangers to the mother in pregnancy as in the non-pregnant state. It may affect her health (weakening it), and may have adverse effects on the liver, pancreas and the brain. Some of these may be serious and life-threatening.

Should a pregnant mother be weaned off alcohol, if she is using it in excess?

Yes. However, since this may be difficult - to the extent of using medication to cFetal alcohol syndrome ontrol withdrawal symptoms - admission into hospital may be necessary.

The acute detoxification period may last for anything between three and seven days. The period immediately after should be used to identify and start correcting nutritional deficiencies. Vitamin supplements are required, in most cases.

Does "Antabuse®" have a role to play in weaning a pregnant mother off alcohol?

No. This is a drug whose real name is disulfiram. It is not used in pregnancy as its safety to the fetus cannot be guaranteed.

If I am an excessive drinker and have become dependent, can I just stop without medical help?

This is not advised. Withdrawal symptoms can be devastating and may endanger life and limb. Epilepsy-like grand mal seizures may occur within a day of stopping the alcohol. If you are alcohol-dependent, withdrawal should be done in hospital or in a dedicated detoxification centre.

For a mother with an alcohol problem; what happens after delivery?

If the mother has made a successful withdrawal during her pregnancy, then the achievement should be reinforced in the postnatal period. Counseling support and self-help measures will be instituted and maintained, to help her stop drifting back into dependency.

Should a woman drinking excess alcohol consider breast-feeding?

This is controversial. Alcohol is secreted freely in breast-milk and the breast-fed baby gets as much alcohol as the mother. By virtue of this fact alone, it may be wise to consider not to breast-feed.                                                                                                   

An additional disincentive is the fact that alcohol has an inhibitory effect on milk production, which could lead to the baby not getting enough and therefore being irritable, which in turn leads the mother to more alcohol abuse (her crutch in any sort of crisis), a classic vicious circle.

There appears to be conflicting advice from experts about alcohol consumption in pregnancy. Why is this?

The advice may appear to be conflicting but this is not so. The common theme is that alcohol consumption during pregnancy and particularly in the earliest phase does carry definite risk. It is the level of emphasis that varies.

This is why, in early 2008,  NICE in the UK came out with the explicit advice for pregnant women to avoid alcohol altogether. This is an acknowledgement that there is no absolute value of alcohol consumption below which lack of harm can be guaranteed. In fact, exactly the same advice had been given by the U.S. Surgeon General  to prospective mothers in the United States three years previously (February 2005).

If you don't drink at all during pregnancy then you guarantee yourself freedom from those potential complications. If you absolutely must drink, then make sure it is as little as possible but beware it is not risk-free.

Last update: Feb 29, 2012

Drug Abuse in Pregnancy: Next Page

For the child, fetal alcohol syndrome is a life-time sentence as the effects are permanent and irreversible

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