This month, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a new clinical report, updating its guidelines for drinking during pregnancy. The report, to many an expectant mom’s dismay, puts the kibosh on long-held beliefs that a small drink once in awhile won’t harm a developing baby. The AAP states that even a small amount of alcohol may be harmful during pregnancy.
Why it’s a big deal
In its report, “Fetal Alcohol and Spectrum Disorders,” published in the journal Pediatrics, the AAP finds exposure to alcohol in utero as the leading preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities in infants and children. According to the report, experts are strict in their advice: No amount of alcohol at any point in pregnancy is considered safe.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders is an umbrella term for the cognitive and behavioral issues that come into play when someone’s mother drinks alcohol while pregnant. FASDs can negatively impact the brain, heart, spine, vision, and hearing of developing babies. Incidences of learning disabilities and behavioral problems are also higher with children with FASDs.
What’s the harm in one drink?
The latest research from the AAP finds that women who drink during their first trimester were 12 times more likely to give birth to a child with FASDs. The likelihood only increases as women advance in their pregnancies and continue to consume alcoholic beverages. Women who drink in both the first and second trimesters increase their chances of giving birth to a baby with FASDs by 61 times. Those who drink throughout pregnancy increase the odds by 65 times.
“Even though fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are the most commonly identifiable causes of developmental delays and intellectual disabilities, they remain significantly under-recognized,” Dr. Janet F. Williams said in a statement.
The AAP states that even limited alcohol consumption may slow baby’s development. As little as one drink each day – equal to 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer – may be enough to restrict growth and inhibit proper development.
What you can do
If you’re like San Francisco mom Kellie, who used moderate drinking to relieve stress throughout her pregnancy, talk to your health care provider about more healthful alternatives. “Throughout my second and third trimesters, I would have a small glass of wine almost every night after work,” Kellie explains. “I thought it was better to take the edge off my stress, as I know anxiety can be harmful to my baby, too.”
Gentle exercise, meditation and mindfulness, and talk therapy can help ease the symptoms of stress and bring about a calmer, more balanced version of you.