According to the Centre of Disease Control (CDC), there is no scientifically proven safe quantity of
alcohol intake at any stage of pregnancy. This applies both in regards to the type of alcoholic beverage
or the alcohol content. The liver is amongst the last organs to develop. Therefore, approximately two
hours after having a drink, the alcohol levels in the mother’s blood and the unborn child are the same.
Alcohol easily passes through the placenta and umbilical cord to the developing baby posing significant
health risks. These risks can predispose a baby to developmental challenges even when the mother took
alcohol prior to her being aware that she has conceived.
In the first trimester drinking alcohol prevents proper implantation which results in miscarriage (baby
dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy). Premature and still births (baby dies in the womb after
20 weeks of pregnancy) have also been associated with first trimester exposure to alcohol. Depending
on the cells affected developmental deviations may arise in the baby such as malformations in the facial
structure and defects associated with the development of the neural tube. This is the organ in an
embryo that later forms the spinal cord and the brain.
Specific alcohol induced defects such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders (FASD) occur from the third
week of pregnancy. FASDs are chronic developmental conditions which include intellectual, cognitive,
developmental and physical challenges. Binge drinking is closely connected to development of FASDs.Some of the complications include: low birth weight, decreased growth in fetus as well as in childhood,
delayed milestones, low IQ, communication difficulties such as language delays, hypoplasia and renal
agenesis which are malformations of the kidneys, poor skeletal development thus affecting motor
coordination, low head circumference which predisposes the baby to cognitive challenges, visual and
Cardiac development of a fetus occurs in the third week of pregnancy. Therefore alcohol intake in this
period results in significant malformations and vulnerabilities that can increase the risk of cardiac
diseases later in life.
Some babies exposed to high quantities of alcohol in-utero can experience alcohol withdrawals upon
delivery. Most babies who are treated get better.
It is important to abstain from alcohol when planning for a baby, in the course or pregnancy and after
delivery. In the event a mother drunk alcohol prior to knowing that they have conceived consult with
your medical professional for advice.
By: Zawadi Kimari