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 liquid travels through her bloodstream and into the placenta. The placenta provides nutrients to the fetus during pregnancy, but it will also transfer harmful substances taken by the mother. If the mother drinks alcohol, then the baby will receive residual amounts of the alcohol. 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) (fig. 1) 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. Complete abstinence from alcohol during pregnancy will prevent FAS.
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.
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.
As far as ingesting caffeine is concerned, 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.
Just remember, everything you eat, drink, or inhale during pregnancy has a direct affect on your baby. These effects may impact the baby for its entire life. You are truly nurturing your child from within, so make sure that your baby gets the proper nutrition it needs to start its life off as healthy as possible.
Review Date: June 29, 2001
Reviewed By: Peter Chen, M.D., Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of
Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2001 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.