Alcohol and Fetal Development (What Pregnant Women Need to Know about Drinking)

The Problem.

The subject of alcohol and fetal development is highly emotional. In general, people often have strong beliefs about drinking during pregnancy.

alcohol and fetal developmentFor example, some restaurant servers refuse to serve alcohol to women who appear to be pregnant. One women become frantic when she discovered she had eaten salad with wine vinegar dressing. This in spite of the fact that wine vinegar contains no alcohol.

Quebec used a scare campaign against drinking while pregnant. It stated that  “One drink can hurt your foetus.” Women believed it. So they demanded abortions after having a single drink before they knew they were pregnant. The province quickly dropped the campaign.

In fact, there’s no medical evidence that moderate drinking has ever caused a single case of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Women who give birth to children with FAS generally smoke tobacco and use illegal drugs. Many are malnourished and don’t get medical care. Drinking during pregnancy hasn’t declined among this group. They tend to lead very marginal lives and are largely immune to educational efforts.

The Study

Researchers in Denmark studied the effects of heavy episodic or binge drinking early in pregnancies. They wanted to know if it effected fetal development.

To do so, they interviewed 1,836 pregnant women seen at two hospitals during a six-month period. The investigators interviewed them around the early second trimester about their drinking habits during their pregnancy.

Later they compared this information with birthweight and birth length. They obtained this from the Danish Medical Birth Registry.

alcohol and fetal developmentThe birthweight and birth length of children born to “bingeing” mothers was virtually identical to the “non-bingers.” Neither the number nor the timing of binge drinking events had any association with fetal growth.

Source: Slavensky, J. and Kesmodel, U. Alcohol binge drinking in early pregnancy and the effect on fetal growth. A cohort study. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand, 2018 ,Feb 12. doi: 10.1111/aogs.13329.

Resources on Alcohol and Fetal Development

Dolan, S. and Kelly, A. Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby. The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide. NY: HarperOne, 2013.

alcohol and fetal developmentDuigan, J., et al. Clean & Lean Pregnancy Guide. London: Kyle, 2014.

Geddes, L. Bumpology. The Myth-busting Pregnancy Book for Curious Parents-to-be. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

Glicksman, M. and DiGeronimo, T. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth. NY: Alpha,2010.

Stone, J. Pregnancy for Dummies. Wiley & Sons, 2014.