Alcohol, Smoking, and Caffeine During Pregnancy
Pregnant women are strongly urged not to drink alcohol or smoke during pregnancy. These substances have been shown to have damaging effects on developing fetuses and may contribute to other medical problems as the child grows.
When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, the drug travels through her bloodstream and into the placenta. The placenta provides nutrients to the fetus during pregnancy, and it will also transfer harmful substances taken by the mother. That means that when mom has a glass of wine, her baby has a glass of wine, too. In addition, drinking alcohol can lead you to eat less, thus losing sources of nutrients.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, heavy drinkers (more than 2 alcoholic beverages per day) are at greater risk of giving birth to a child with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). FAS includes mental and physical birth defects and growth problems associated with the mother's high levels of alcohol use during pregnancy. If you don’t drink any alcohol, you will prevent fetal alcohol syndrome.
Studies have also shown that consuming moderate amounts of alcohol during pregnancy may contribute to early miscarriage. That is why it's important to follow a simple rule: do not drink during pregnancy. If you enjoy alcoholic beverages try to replace them with their non-alcoholic counterparts. We simply don’t know if there’s any level of alcohol consumption that’s safe during pregnancy.
The same rule should be followed for smoking. Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have low-birthweight babies. Even before delivery, mothers who smoke have a greater chance of having a miscarriage, vaginal bleeding, or an ectopic pregnancy. Once the child is born, there is a higher likelihood of her having developmental issues like mental and behavioral problems.
Caffeine can also affect your growing baby. Small amounts of caffeine during pregnancy are okay, but heavy doses are strongly discouraged. Caffeine, like alcohol, travels through your bloodstream to the placenta and can have a negative effect on your baby. Since caffeine is a stimulant it increases your heart rate and metabolism - both of which directly affect the baby. It is okay to have one or two cups of coffee, tea, or cola a week, but try to give them up completely if you can.
Peter J. Chen, MD, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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