Most of us are well aware that drinking throughout one’s pregnancy can cause harm to an unborn baby.
But with slightly more than half of all pregnancies in the U.S. being unintended, many women are simply unaware that they’re pregnant for a few weeks and continue drinking alcohol as they normally would.
Prenatal Alcohol Damage
Once would-be moms discover they’re pregnant, many consider aborting the child for fear of potential damage that they’ve caused.
One of the most common symptoms in newborns exposed to large amounts of alcohol is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), which leads to life-long effects including developmental delays, birth defects, brain damage and social and behavioral problems.
Some babies exposed to high levels of alcohol will die before they are born.
The Early Risks
But for those mothers who drank very early in their pregnancy and stopped immediately upon learning that they were, the risks to their unborn child are minimal to non-existent.
Here are three common myths related to binge drinking in early pregnancy that are simply untrue:
- Drinking during any point in pregnancy carries high risks: For most women, alcohol consumption in the first two weeks carries little to no risk. “It tends to have all or nothing effect,” explained Pat O’Brien, a spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, based in the U.K. “It either tends to cause a miscarriage then and there. If it doesn’t, there tends to not be any effect with an ongoing pregnancy. There are no big studies that confirm that, but it seems to be the case.”
- Binge drinking at any point will result in FASD: This disorder is more commonly associated who engaged in binge drinking throughout their pregnancy. O’Brien said if that a woman stops as soon as she recognizes she’s pregnancy, there is only a very low risk of the child developing a FASD.
- The mother should have known better: Most women don’t realize they’re pregnant for two weeks and it can be up to several weeks before they suspect they’re about to have a child. In other words, it’s more common than you’d think to binge drink without knowing you’re pregnant. Don’t blame yourself. Just make it a point to stop drinking now that you’re aware.
Pregnancy and Alcoholism
If you’re pregnant and alcohol-dependent, talk with your doctor and get recommendations on where to receive treatment. This will help you plan how to handle urges to drink and learn how to say no. You should also consider joining a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous.
If not for yourself, then quit drinking alcohol for the sake of your child. Make the decision that you want them to have the best chance at a healthy and happy life, and not one that could be forever dictated by your choice to drink.
Additional Reading: Big Surprise: What Age Does Our Alcohol Consumption Peak?
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