The medical community has long stressed the importance of not drinking alcohol while pregnant. But repeated claims that it is safe for a mother-to-be to drink small amount of alcohol has prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics to publish an updated report in its online journal Pediatrics.
There is no amount of alcohol that is safe to drink during any trimester of pregnancy notes the new report.
Alcohol-related disorders in newborns occur at even greater frequency than previously thought, it found, because such disorders have been “significantly unrecognized.”
Such disorders, in fact, are the most commonly identifiable cause of developmental delays and intellectual disabilities in children, said Janet F. Williams, a University of Texas physician and lead author of the report.
“The research suggests that the smartest choice for women who are pregnant is to just abstain from alcohol completely,” she said. “This message has been out there for a long time, that alcohol use is not healthy, and a lot of people just want that to be wrong.”
The report stated “about half of all childbearing-age women in the United States report consuming alcohol within the past month. In truth, some don’t yet realize they are pregnant. But nearly 8 percent of women said they continued consuming alcohol during pregnancy.
Women that binge-drink when they are not pregnant may be more likely to consume alcohol during pregnancy, researchers said.
Williams noted that there’s more than 30 years of research that clearly connects alcohol use during pregnancy with birth defects.
The academy reports that another study found an increased risk of retardation of growth in infants even when a pregnant woman’s consumption was limited to one alcoholic drink per day — a 1.5-ounce shot of distilled spirits, 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer.
Drinking in the first trimester of pregnancy compared with no drinking resulted in 12 times the odds of giving birth to a child with fetal alcohol spectrum.
First- and second-trimester drinking increased those odds by 61 times, with those drinking throughout the duration of pregnancy increasing the odds by a factor of 65.
Children affected by fetal alcohol spectrum, Dr. Williams said, are notably smaller with smaller or less apparent facial features and flatness in the middle region of the face. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder also is strongly associated with alcohol, while neurological and cognitive problems can include the inability to form concepts, make plans and speak fluently. Additional problems can occur with social interaction and relationships.
“No alcohol is the safe choice,” Dr. Williams said. “No alcohol means no [fetal alcohol spectrum disorders]. I don’t want people to feel badly if they were using alcohol and found out they were pregnant. That happens. But they must know at that moment, if they stop, they have a definitely lower risk of their child having problems than they would if they continue drinking.”
Sources: David Templeton, http://www.post-gazette.com/news/health/2015/10/19/Study-reinforces-avoiding-alcohol-while-pregnant/stories/201510190008
Carl Nierenberg, http://www.livescience.com/52515-pregnant-women-no-drinking-alcohol.html