Stay Away From Alcohol & Smoking During Pregnancy
Smoking, drug abuse and alcohol consumption are an absolute no during pregnancy.
How harmful is smoking during pregnancy?
Smoking any time during pregnancy is dangerous, but is exceptionally so during the first three months. Some of the conditions in the child that have been linked to maternal smoking are:
- Congenital heart abnormalities
- Small for date babies or premature birth
- Still birth
- Intellectual impairment
- Attention deficit, hyperactivity and behavioural disorders
- Learning disabilities
- SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
- MAS (Meconium Aspiration Syndrome) where the newborn has a greenish, sticky liquid in his intestines due to inhalation of amniotic fluid during pregnancy.
Besides active smoking, even passive exposure to smoke is dangerous during pregnancy. The mother-to-be should therefore ensure that she is not even around people who smoke, as far as possible. There has been recent evidence to show that the effects of maternal smoking during pregnancy are seen even after the child has grown up. Adolescent children of mothers who smoked during their pregnancies seem to have behavioural problems at school.
What is the effect of alcohol during pregnancy?
Pregnancy is unlikely to occur in women who are chronic alcoholics because of cessation of menstruation due to liver damage. Even modest consumption of alcohol (2-4 drinks per week) has been associated with miscarriage.
Alcohol consumption during pregnancy has many side-effects. There are many conditions that may affect the child because of consumption of alcohol by the mother when she is pregnant. The most common and dangerous condition is called Fetal Alcoholic Syndrome (FAS). In this condition, the baby is born severely malformed and is usually mentally impaired. There may be defects in the heart, lungs and limbs. Children of about 10% of alcohol users develop this condition.
Other deforming conditions that may be caused due to heavy maternal consumption of alcohol may be:
- Increased susceptibility for ear infections
- Brain damage leading to mental retardation
- Low birth weight
- Difficulty in coordination
- Facial deformities
How much alcohol is safe?
There is no safe level of maternal alcohol consumption for the safety of the fetus. Ideally, alcohol should be totally abstained from, especially during the first trimester. If this is not possible, then the drinks should be reduced to about 5 drinks per week.