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  • Sep 30, 2010, 12:54 PM
    accidental drinking binge around time of conception=risk of FAS?
    I am a healthy, nonsmoking, married 29-year-old woman who drinks occasionally. About 2 weeks ago, I had 5 or 6 drinks at one time and threw up repeatedly afterward. I do not normally drink anywhere near this much and have only been sick like this one other time in my life. The worry is that I think I may be pregnant. If I am in fact pregnant, I would have conceived around this time. Could this kind of drinking episode damage the fetus so early on in its development? For instance, would I need to worry about fetal alcohol syndrome?
  • Sep 30, 2010, 01:02 PM

    I find this: "
    Quick Reference: Fact Sheets

    Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy
    What are the hazards of drinking alcohol during pregnancy?
    What is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)?
    What are other FASDs?
    How much alcohol is too much during pregnancy?
    Is there a cure for FASDs?
    If a pregnant woman has one or two drinks before she realizes she is pregnant, can it harm the baby?
    Is it safe to drink alcohol while breastfeeding?
    Can heavy drinking by the father contribute to FASDs?
    What is the March of Dimes doing to prevent and treat FASDs?
    Where can a woman get help to stop drinking alcohol?
    Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a wide range of physical and mental birth defects. The term “fetal alcohol spectrum disorders” (FASDs) is used to describe the many problems associated with exposure to alcohol before birth. Each year in the United States, up to 40,000 babies are born with FASDs (1).

    Although many women are aware that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects, many do not realize that moderate or even light drinking also may harm the fetus. In fact, no level of alcohol use during pregnancy has been proven safe. Therefore, the March of Dimes recommends that pregnant women do not drink any alcohol, including beer, wine, wine coolers and liquor, throughout their pregnancy and while nursing. In addition, because women often do not know they are pregnant for a few months, women who may be pregnant or those who are attempting to become pregnant should not drink alcohol.

    Recent government surveys indicate that about 1 in 12 pregnant women drink during pregnancy (2). About 1 in 30 pregnant women report binge drinking (five or more drinks on any one occasion) (2). Women who binge drink or drink heavily greatly increase the risk of alcohol-related damage to their babies.

    When a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol passes through the placenta to her fetus. In the fetus’s immature body, alcohol is broken down much more slowly than in an adult's body. As a result, the alcohol level of the baby's blood can be higher and remain elevated longer than the level in the mother's blood. This sometimes causes the baby to suffer lifelong damage.

    What are the hazards of drinking alcohol during pregnancy?
    Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause FASDs, with effects that range from mild to severe. These effects include mental retardation; learning, emotional and behavioral problems; and defects involving the heart, face and other organs. The most severe of these effects is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), a combination of physical and mental birth defects.

    Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk for miscarriage and premature birth (before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy) (3, 4). Studies also suggest that drinking during pregnancy may contribute to stillbirth. A 2008 Danish study found that women who binge drink three or more times during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy had a 56 percent greater risk for stillbirth than women who did not binge drink (3). Another 2008 study found that women who had five or more drinks a week were 70 percent more likely to have a stillborn baby than non-drinking women (5).

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    What is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)?
    FAS is one of the most common known causes of mental retardation. It is the only cause that is entirely preventable. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that between 1,000 and 6,000 babies in the United States are born yearly with FAS (6).

    Babies with FAS are abnormally small at birth and usually do not catch up on growth as they get older. They have characteristic facial features, including small eyes, a thin upper lip and smooth skin in place of the normal groove between the nose and upper lip. Their organs, especially the heart, may not form properly. Many babies with FAS also have a brain that is small and abnormally formed. Most have some degree of mental disability. Many have poor coordination, a short attention span and emotional and behavioral problems.

    The effects of FAS and other FASDs last a lifetime. Even if not mentally retarded, adolescents and adults with FAS and other FASDs are at risk for psychological and behavioral problems and criminal behavior (2). They often find it difficult to keep a job and live independently (2, 6).

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    What are other FASDs?
    The CDC estimates that about three times the number of babies born with FAS are born with some, but not all, of the features of FAS (2). These FASDs are referred to as alcohol-related birth defects (ARBDs) and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders (ARNDs).

    The term ARBDs describes physical birth defects that can occur in many organ systems, including the heart, liver, kidneys, eyes, ears and bones.
    The term ARNDs describes learning and behavioral problems associated with prenatal exposure to alcohol. These problems can include learning disabilities; difficulties with attention, memory and problem solving; speech and language delays; hyperactivity; psychological disorders and poor school performance.

    Children with ARBDs and ARNDs do not have the characteristic facial features associated with FAS (1).

    In general, ARBDs are more likely to result from drinking alcohol during the first trimester, when organs are forming rapidly. Drinking at any stage of pregnancy can affect the brain, resulting in ARNDs, and can also affect growth.

    An older term called fetal alcohol effects (FAEs) is sometimes used to describe alcohol-related damage that is less severe than FAS. The more specific diagnostic categories of ARBDs and ARNDs are now more frequently used.

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    How much alcohol is too much during pregnancy?
    No level of drinking alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the patterns of drinking that place a baby at greatest risk for FASDs are binge drinking and drinking seven or more drinks per week (7). However, FASDs can occur in babies of women who drink less.

    Researchers are taking a closer look at the more subtle effects of moderate and light drinking during pregnancy.

    A 2002 study found that 14-year-old children whose mothers drank as little as one drink a week were significantly shorter and leaner and had a smaller head circumference (a possible indicator of brain size) than children of women who did not drink at all (8).
    A 2001 study found that 6- and 7-year-old children of mothers who had as little as one drink a week during pregnancy were more likely than children of non-drinkers to have behavior problems, such as aggressive and delinquent behaviors. These researchers found that children whose mothers drank any alcohol during pregnancy were more than three times as likely as unexposed children to demonstrate delinquent behaviors (9).
    A 2007 study suggested that female children of women who drank less than one drink a week were more likely to have behavioral and emotional problems at 4 and 8 years of age. The study also suggested similar effects in boys, but at higher levels of drinking (10).
    Other studies report behavioral and learning problems in children exposed to moderate drinking during pregnancy, including attention and memory problems, hyperactivity, impulsivity, poor social and communication skills, psychiatric problems (including mood disorders) and alcohol and drug use (2).

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    Is there a cure for FASDs?
    There is no cure for FASDs. However, a 2004 study found that early diagnosis (before 6 years of age) and being raised in a stable, nurturing environment can improve the long-term outlook for individuals with FASDs (11). Children who experienced these protective factors during their school years were two to four times more likely to avoid serious behavioral problems resulting in trouble with the law or confinement in a psychiatric institution.

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    If a pregnant woman has one or two drinks before she realizes she is pregnant, can it harm the baby?
    It is unlikely that the occasional drink a woman takes before she realizes she is pregnant will harm her baby. The baby’s brain and other organs begin developing around the third week of pregnancy, however, and are vulnerable to damage in these early weeks. Because no amount of alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy, a woman should stop drinking immediately if she even suspects she could be pregnant, and she should not drink alcohol if she is trying to become pregnant."

    Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy - March of Dimes

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