I’ll have a shot of whiskey, a gin & tonic,
and a home pregnancy test – to go, please. Hey guys, Tara here for Dnews – and you know
who has it the worst? Pregnant women. They can’t have caffeine, they can’t smoke, and
they definitely can’t drink alcohol – though that doesn’t always stop everyone. According to the CDC, 1 in 13 women admit
to drinking while pregnant, and 1 in 70 women admit to binge drinking. Some states, including
Alaska, which has the highest rate of fetal alcohol syndrome in the country – have even
resorted to administering free pregnancy tests at bars, in order to raise awareness about
the disease. But what is fetal alcohol syndrome? And is
it a guaranteed thing if you drink while pregnant? Well, not really. We’ve known since the late
60s that alcohol can cause birth defects. When a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol
passes through the placenta to the fetus, and gets into your baby’s bloodstream. The
problem is that babies metabolize alcohol way slower than adults do – so 1 drink to
you is like 4 drinks to them. Now 4 drinks probably won’t harm you – but in fetuses,
it interferes with the delivery of oxygen and nutrition they need in order to keep growing.
That’s why exposure to alcohol – especially in excessive amounts – can disrupts your baby’s
development, causing growth problems and brain damage. Physically, it has very characteristic effects.
Children with FAS typically have microcephaly, which is a smaller than normal head; as well
as eyes that are smaller, and more far apart, than normal. Now you’re probably wondering, why do women
continue to drink during pregnancy, even when they know it’s bad for their baby? There are a couple reasons. For one, most
women don’t even know they’re pregnant, until they’re at least a month in. And research
shows that alcohol is the most harmful to fetuses during the first 3 months of pregnancy.
So there’s a good chance many of the women whose children have FAS, didn’t even know
they were doing them harm. Now you could argue that if you found out you were pregnant, and
knew you’d been drinking heavily during that time, you could always abort. But it’s unrealistic
to expect everyone to take that option. Another potential cause of FAS, is plain and
simple alcoholism. It’s a disease, and a devastating one that can take over our rational brain
and make us do things that we know are bad. But how bad is bad? And how much alcohol would
it take to cause something like fetal alcohol syndrome? Think of like a spectrum. On the one end,
having 1 drink per day or less, has really not been associated with any risk of FAS.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have children with full-on FAS, whose mothers typically
consumed 8 – 10 drinks per day. In the middle, women who have 4-6 drinks per day, typically
produce children with mild FAS. But even 1-2 drinks per day, substantially increases the
odds of stunting your child’s growth. Which is why public health experts recommend
the “better safe than sorry” approach. No alcohol, no worries. What do you think? One drink won’t kill your
unborn baby, but is the 30-minute buzz you get really worth the constant worrying? Leave
your thoughts in the comments below – and as always, thank you guys for watching.