It’s a common conception that alcohol and pregnancy should not mix, but what are the biological factors that go into play? What exactly happens in utero that makes this combination so dangerous for an unborn child?
Biological Aspects and Impact
Unborn children absorb their nutrition straight from their mothers via the placenta. The placenta is attached to the baby directly through the umbilical cord, which serves as the channel for all of the life-giving substances that the baby needs to survive.
When a mother drinks alcohol, it travels throughout her body via the bloodstream. The alcohol also makes its way directly into the baby’s blood supply. This is because alcohol’s particles are very small and easily make their way through tiny passages in the placenta, causing the baby’s blood alcohol content to be the same as the mother’s. Since that alcohol is more concentrated in the baby’s small body, it has the potential to stunt the growth and development of the baby’s vital organs.
Alcohol is eventually metabolized by the mother’s liver, causing its effects to come to an end. However, because an unborn child’s metabolizing organs are not finished developing, the alcohol remains in the baby’s system and causes prolonged exposure to the harmful effects of the alcohol.
Prolonged exposure to alcohol is the culprit behind the potential birth defects, slow development, and learning problems of children who experienced alcohol while in the womb. These problems are commonly referred to as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and will continue to be hurdles throughout a child’s life. This includes anything from learning disabilities and depression to physical deformities and neurological issues.
What Can You Do?
The majority of prenatal alcohol exposure takes place in the early weeks before a woman is aware that she is pregnant. If you feel that you may have exposed your baby to alcohol while in utero, contact your pregnancy care physician.
If you need a physician or pregnancy advice, the at All About Women is always available for counseling, prenatal testing, or more information surrounding pregnancy risks. Contact us if you wish to make an appointment, or if you have any concerns about your own health or the well-being of your baby.