The Early Pregnancy Danger of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Posted on Feb 3, 2012 | Pregnancy Health Category | | Print This Article

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Creative Commons License photo credit: elisa_piper

That first trimester of pregnancy is marked by a number of conditions and risks, not the least of which is morning sickness. The fact is most women experience morning sickness from about week five or six of pregnancy until week 12 or so, toward the end of the first trimester.

Interestingly enough, this is also the time that your baby is at the greatest risk for developing fetal alcohol syndrome. According to one study on pregnant women, the risk for a baby developing fetal alcohol syndrome is highest during the period between week 7 and week 12 of pregnancy.

The dangers of fetal alcohol syndrome

Fetal alcohol syndrome is marked by a number of deformities and risks, including:

  • Low birthweight
  • Shorter length at birth
  • Small head
  • Smooth, thin upper lip
  • Small and narrow eyes
  • Small upper jaw

A significant risk

Women who drank alcohol during this period of pregnancy increased risks significantly. According to the study, for each drink a woman had during the 7th to 12th week of pregnancy, the following risks increased:

  • 25% increased chance of problems with the newborn’s lips
  • 18% increased chance of having a shorter length baby
  • 16% increased chance of reduced birth weight
  • 12% increased chance of a small head size

What the study doesn’t say

This doesn’t mean, of course, that there is no risk posed to a baby by drinking during those first seven weeks of pregnancy, of course. The study also didn’t look at miscarriages that could have been caused by alcohol exposure during pregnancy.

Long-term problems

There are a number of long-term problems that can be associated with fetal alcohol syndrome, as well. These include things like:

  • Problems with coordination
  • Difficulty with movement
  • Speech problems
  • Difficulty with thought
  • Problems with social skills
  • Risk of heart defects

More and more, we’re understanding that alcohol and pregnancy just don’t mix, even in moderation. While a single drink doesn’t guarantee problems, this research tells us that there is a particularly vulnerable period during which we should be extra-cautious.

So, what do you think? Is it safest just to become a tee-totaller during pregnancy?

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