Drinking During Pregnancy: What do you know?

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If you look carefully at liquor, beer, and wine bottles, you’ll find a warning about drinking during pregnancy. But these cautionary labels don’t tell the whole story. Alcohol has many effects on a woman’s body — effects that any mom-to-be should know. Take this short quiz to test your knowledge of alcohol and pregnancy.

1. What’s generally considered to be the “safe” limit for drinking while pregnant?

a. One drink each day

b. A few drinks a week

c. One drink a month

d. There is no “safe” limit

2. It’s all right to drink while nursing.

True

False

3. Many children outgrow fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

True

False

4. Moderate drinking while pregnant — just five to seven drinks a week — increases the risk of miscarriages.

True

False

5. When used as directed, cough syrup that contains alcohol won’t harm a pregnancy.

True

False

6. A few drinks in the earliest stages of pregnancy usually dooms the pregnancy to failure.

True

False

Answers

1. What’s generally considered to be the “safe” limit for drinking while pregnant? The correct answer is: d. There is no “safe” limit

If you had a drink or two before you learned you were pregnant, you will probably be fine. But pregnant women who think they can drink heavily — or even socially — are taking a dangerous risk. According to researchers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, just two drinks a day can cause the birth defect known as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which has permanent retardation as the leading feature. Less frequent drinking may not trigger full-blown FAS, but it can still cause brain damage and learning problems. Animal experiments suggest that low to moderate levels of drinking during pregnancy can cause persistent learning disabilities in offspring — problems that may not become apparent until adolescence, according to a report in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Other studies have found learning disabilities result from one drink a day or less. There’s only one surefire way to prevent alcohol-related birth defects: Don’t drink while pregnant.

2. It’s all right to drink while nursing.

The correct answer is: False

Federal health agencies urge women not to drink at all when they’re pregnant, trying to conceive, or nursing. Alcohol enters the bloodstream quickly; if a mother is nursing, it will pass into the breastmilk.

3. Many children outgrow fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

The correct answer: False

The brain damage caused by fetal alcohol syndrome is a lifelong condition. Some children and adults with the birth defect are only somewhat impaired; others are severely disabled. Fetal alcohol syndrome is one of the leading causes of retardation in the Western world.

4. Moderate drinking while pregnant — just five to seven drinks a week — increases the risk of miscarriages.

The correct answer is: True

A study of nearly 25,000 Danish pregnant women found that having five or more drinks per week increased the risk of miscarriages in the first trimester.

5. When used as directed, cough syrup that contains alcohol won’t harm a pregnancy.

The correct answer is: True

According to a report from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, there isn’t enough alcohol in cough syrup to cause any trouble — unless, of course, you measure doses by the bottle instead of the teaspoon. However, many cough remedies contain antihistimines which are potentially harmful. You should always consult with your physician before taking any kind of medication.

6. A few drinks in the earliest stages of pregnancy usually dooms the pregnancy to failure.

The correct answer is: False

Many women have a drink (or several) before knowing they are pregnant. If this happens to you, don’t panic. As long as you stop drinking immediately, your baby should still have an excellent start on life.

References

National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome? (No date given)

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Alcohol and pregnancy. (No date given)

Kesmodel U et al. Moderate alcohol intake in pregnancy and the risk of spontaneous abortion. Alcohol and Alcoholism. 37 (1): 87-92

Streissguth, Ann, Ph.D. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.: A Guide for Families and Communities.

Merck Manual. Precautions. http://www.merck.com/

Last Updated: March 11, 2015

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