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The Dangers of Drinking While Pregnant

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The Dangers of Drinking While Pregnant

For women like Kathy Mitchell, the dangers of drinking while pregnant are now more of a reality than ever. Many women just like Kathy are unable to forsee the consequences of their addiction when they are pregnant and later not only hurt themselves but their children too. Drinking during pregnancy can have lifelong repercussions, Kathy Mitchell illustrated that as she painfully admitted that she drank during her teenage and subsequent pregnancies. It was a mistake with the consequences of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) for her daughter Karli.  According to Mitchel, it has not only defined her life and that of her daughter, but one that has also snuffed out all hope of a productive life for Karli. At 43 years of age, Karli’s mental status is that of a first grader whose life is preoccupied with dolls, kitty coloring books and stickers.  Fetal Alcohol Syndrome has removed important aspects of growing up such as independence, self-determination, social cues and the ability for self-direction from Karli’s experience.  Without the oversight of her guardians, at 43 years old, Karli is in danger of engaging in dangerous behavior and being easily manipulated by others.  According to her mother, even today at 43 years of age, Karli does not understand sequence and is incapable of following more than one rule at a time.   Exposure to alcohol is one of the greatest danger to the fetus in utero. However, according to the Alcohol Policies Project sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy is a preventable cause of birth defects and childhood disabilities. Sadly, Karl’s condition is not an anomaly as between 10 and 20 of every 1000 babies born today are suffering from FAS. Based on a National survey, this is a direct result of the following statistics that shows:

  • More than half of women between the age of 15-44 admit that they drank while pregnant.
  • Binge drinking is common among women of child-bearing age between 18-34
  • At least 66% of the women who admitted drinking during pregnancy did so during the first trimester and another 54% drank during their third trimester.
  • There are approximately two babies per every 1000 born annually in the United States with liver defect due to the mother’s drinking during pregnancy.
  • Fetal defect directly related to alcohol consumption during pregnancy is estimated to occur in 3-5 live births per every 1,000.
  • The birth defects monitoring program reveal that FAS rates are 0.1 per 1000 births for whites, e 3.0 per 1000 live births for American Indians and compared to 0.6 per 1000 live births among African Americans.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome occurs because alcohol has the ability to disrupt development of the fetus at any stage during a pregnancy.  Especially dangerous is the early stages before a woman is aware that she is pregnant. Scientific study outcomes also reveal that women who binge drink or consume four or more drinks in succession or engage in heavy drinking regularly during pregnancy put their unborn infant at the greatest risk for severe developmental problems. Children exposed to
alcohol in utero can experience severe brain damage and the conditions with varying areas of disability known as:

  1. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  2. Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome,
  3. Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder
  4. Alcohol-related birth defects.

Exposure to alcohol as a fetus can also cause conditions that manifest later in life such as the predisposition to addiction and mental retardation. During Mitchel’s pregnancy with her first two children, little was known about FAS.  In fact, the same year Karli was born, the landmark paper by researchers from the University of Washington Medical School that described children with physical and intellectual disabilities whose mothers consumed alcohol during pregnancy as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome was published for the first time. However, despite awareness of the expressed dangers of alcohol on the fetus in utero, millions of women today still drink during pregnancy. The sad fact is that women addicted to drugs and alcohol typically do not stop substance abuse behavior while pregnant.  The neurological changes caused by addiction makes it difficult. if not impossible, for some women to stop abusing alcohol even if it means risking the health of their unborn baby.  As such it is critical for women of child-bearing age to seek help for any substance addiction at the onset of this condition.   In Kathy Mitchell’s case, failure to get treatment for addiction resulted in years of pain and suffering including harm to some of her other children.  After the death of her fifth child, Mitchell received ten months of treatment for addiction. Following recovery, she resolved to change her life and today is vice president of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome which is a non-profit organization focused on increasing awareness of the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The American Academy of Pediatrics have reported that there is no known safe level of alcoholic consumption during any trimester of pregnancy. For more stories about addiction visit us here.

Sources:

  1. http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/ct-fetal-alcohol-syndrome-20160119-story.html
  2. http://www.cspinet.org/booze/fas.htm
  3. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/108/1/185.full.pdf

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