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Alcohol During Pregnancy — Use Common Sense Along with Science

Healthy Mom Healthy Baby reduced

By Siobhan Dolan, MD, MPH, author of Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby

Tomorrow I will drop my eldest daughter at college. It is an amazing rite of passage and I hope she is happy in the next few years, making lots of friends and striving to reach her intellectual potential.

I don’t know a mother who doesn’t feel the way I do – that they would do anything to make life better for their child.

So as an obstetrician gynecologist, I am continually surprised when women ask me if it is okay to have a glass of wine during pregnancy.

The answer is really NO.

We know that alcohol is a neurotoxicant that affects the developing brain. When consumed in excess during pregnancy, alcohol crosses the placenta and affects the fetus. It has been clearly associated with a constellation of physical, mental and behavior problem in babies called fetal alcohol syndrome. In fact, alcohol use during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of intellectual disability.

We think of fetal alcohol syndrome along a spectrum, with smaller amounts of alcohol having a small effect and larger amounts having a more profound effect. This is called a dose-response relationship and it has been demonstrated with regard to alcohol use in pregnancy. So why would you drink even a small amount of alcohol and impart a small risk to your developing fetus?

Each woman is different in how she metabolizes alcohol, based on genetics and metabolism, and thus there is no way to establish a safe level of alcohol for every woman. Therefore, March of Dimes is clear that there is no safe level of alcohol intake that can assure no effect.

So let’s use common sense along with science – avoid alcohol if planning a pregnancy and most certainly cut it out entirely once pregnant. I think parents and doctors can agree that the benefits of a glass of wine are minimal at best and so the risk is just not worth it.

For a fact-based guide that empowers every mom-to-be, read more about March of Dime’s Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby by Siobhan Dolan, MD and Alice Lesch Kelly.


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