The American Academy of Pediatrics warned recently that pregnant women should not drink any alcohol at all to prevent learning disabilities and fetal abnormalities in their children. Even having one drink when pregnant can lead to mental difficulties in the offspring.
Dr. Cheryl Tan, an epidemiologist at the CDC said: “There is no safe amount, no safe time, and no safe type of alcohol to drink during pregnancy. It’s just not worth the risk”. Dr. Tan from the CDC did an extensive phone survey study where drinking behaviors of non-pregnant women and pregnant women were recorded. The results were as follows. 1 in 10 pregnant women said that they had consumed alcohol in the past 30 days; also 1 in 33 stated that she had been binge drinking (4 drinks or more).
Pediatricians have found over the years that even one alcoholic drink per day in a pregnant woman will lead to growth retardation in the baby. But this is not all: there are a myriad of problems with the consumption of alcoholic drinks, like problems with hearing and vision, but also heart, kidney and bone deformities. As the nervous tissue is very sensitive to the toxic effect of alcohol, the offspring of mothers who drank when pregnant often have neurodevelopmental issues such as difficulties with abstract reasoning, processing of information and ADHD.
When compared to women who did not drink while pregnant women drinking only in the first trimester were noted to be 12-times more likely having a child with neurodevelopmental issues. Women drinking in the first and the second trimester, but not the third were 61-times more at risk, while women drinking during all three trimesters increased the risk 65-times.
Medical science can be the problem
There was a previous study in only 2010 stating that it would be OK for a pregnant woman to drink one or two glasses of alcoholic drinks as the study showed no neurodevelopmental problems up until the age of 5 of the children born.
But at the end of the study the scientists did note that each mother and child is different in how they metabolize alcohol, and it should be discussed with the obstetrician what to do. This type of study makes no sense at all. It seems to carelessly suggest to women to get pregnant and continue to drink. Remember that all of the nervous tissue has to develop out of a fertilized egg, then form into the neural tube and grow into the cerebellum and the brain. On each of the multiple steps of embryonic development there is enzyme induction that determines the next step in the development and many of these important decision points can be interrupted by alcohol. The newest study from the CDC indicates very clearly that it is not safe to drink at all throughout pregnancy. The reason is that neurodevelopmental development can be seriously compromised.
Previous toxicity studies regarding the fetal alcohol syndrome
A study from Ghana documented that fetal alcohol syndrome exists in this African country, although previously not too much was medically noted. 90% of children with fetal alcohol syndrome were picked up as “failure to thrive”; 80% of these children had heart disease and 50% had hernias.
A study from Poland showed the correlation between prenatal exposure to alcohol and developmental problems in children. The sad results are 2% of 7 to 9 year olds were affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and 0.4% with fetal alcohol syndrome. It was noted that there was a great need in Poland to develop diagnostic skills to diagnose neurodevelopmental disorders.
These human findings are mirrored by animal studies using a mouse model where alcohol was administered at certain times during pregnancy. The researchers could not find any safe time period during the pregnancy of mice where alcohol could be administered without causing any congenital abnormality. To the contrary: chromosomal abnormalities developed as a result of alcohol exposure that persisted into life after birth. Fetal alcohol syndrome birth defects could be pinpointed to the exact exposure time of the pregnancy when certain organ formations took place.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
The newest study from a group of pediatricians states unequivocally that no exposure to any alcohol is safe throughout any pregnancy. In 1973 fetal alcohol syndrome was first published with a cluster of genetic abnormalities. Since then it has been recognized that subtler neurodevelopmental syndromes are due to lower alcohol concentrations during pregnancies resulting in what is now called “fetal alcohol spectrum disorders”.
It is the key observation that no neurodevelopmental problems have been observed in women who did not drink a single alcoholic beverage during their pregnancy that led to the strong statement in this research paper.
“The research suggests that the smartest choice for women who are pregnant is to just abstain from alcohol completely,” said Dr. Janet F. Williams, one of the leading authors of the report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The old question whether it is safe to drink a bit of alcohol when pregnant has finally been clearly answered: When a woman is pregnant she should refrain from all forms of alcohol for the sake of giving birth to a healthy baby. Despite the definition of fetal alcohol syndrome in 1973 it has taken until 2015 before clear guidance from the health care profession and the CDC has emerged regarding drinking and pregnancy. How can we expect to have a healthy next generation both physically and neurodevelopmentally, if we do not take responsibility during the next generation’s pregnancy? This is the responsibility of the mother, the father and society at large.