Oops! I love that I included “accidentally” in the Google search, as if Google may judge me.
So, I did accidentally drink alcohol during early pregnancy. I didn’t know I was pregnant at the time and had been getting big fat negatives (BFNs) every time I took a pregnancy test.
So, am I freaking out? I am not! Why? For a couple of different reasons.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) occur when expecting mothers drink significant amounts of alcohol frequently and consistently throughout pregnancy. The second I received my big fat positive (BFP), I stopped consuming alcohol!
Blood Supply. The mother and baby do not share a bloody supply until approximately week four of pregnancy. I am not encouraging anyone to go balls to the wall until week four, as there is limited evidence on how alcohol affects the baby when no direct line between blood supplies exists, but you can relax since it’s possible the alcohol didn’t reach the baby. Also, the baby’s major organs don’t begin to develop until around week three, giving expecting mothers some leeway before cells begin to specialize and form fetal brain tissue.
All Or Nothing Effect. Dr. Patrick O’Brien, a spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), says, “The general consensus is something harmful like alcohol tends to have an all or nothing effect [in the very early stages of pregnancy]. It tends to cause a miscarriage or it has no harmful effect.” Dr. O’Brien said that drinking before knowing one is pregnant is a “very common” situation, adding, “If the baby is still alive after such drinking, the likelihood is it will be healthy.”
I’m In Good Company. A 2013 study from the University of Adelaide compared birth outcomes in 5,628 women in England, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand who were pregnant for the first time between 2004 and 2011. In terms of alcohol consumption, the authors found that:
- More than half reported drinking alcohol during the first trimester.
- Thirty-four percent reported at least one binge episode during the first trimester.
- Twenty-five percent said that they drank three to seven drinks per week.
- Nineteen percent said that they had one to two drinks per week.
- Fifteen reported having eight to fourteen drinks per week.
- Five percent consumed more than fourteen drinks per week.
In comparing the participants, both drinkers and non-drinkers, the researchers reported that there was no association between alcohol consumption before fifteen weeks and the number of adverse factors at birth. These included low birth weight, small birth size, preterm birth, and preeclampsia (a potentially life-threatening condition in which a pregnant woman develops high blood pressure).
What the study did not show, of course, was whether drinking caused damage to the baby that we cannot see, specifically the impairment of mental function. And this is where things get a little fuzzier.
Anecdotal Evidence. I know that it’s very easy to find evidence on the Internet to confirm your belief, also called confirmation bias. However, I can’t make this post without including the fact that there is a LOT of anecdotal evidence on countless forums of women that binge drank during early pregnancy while having NO idea that they were pregnant, and they now have happy, healthy and intelligent children.
Alcohol During Pregnancy: Yay Or Nay?
Nay! Big nay! NO amount of alcohol is safe! “The problem with drinking alcohol during your pregnancy is that there is no amount that has been proven to be safe,” says Jacques Moritz, MD, director of gynecology at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York.
Furthermore, not all women metabolize alcohol the same way since some have higher levels of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol. “If a pregnant woman with low levels of this enzyme drinks, her baby may be more susceptible to harm because the alcohol may circulate in her body for a longer period of time,” says David Garry, DO, associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and chair of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Task Force for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists District II/NY.
I’m a huge proponent of abstinence, along with the CDC, the U.S. Surgeon General, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Why take the risk? I find that non-alcoholic beers hit the spot when I’m craving a nice cold one 🙂
Alcohol & Fertility
If you’re trying to conceive (TTC), and especially if you’re having a difficult time, you may want to cut back on the booze. Much to many people’s dismay, alcohol hampers fertility in both men and women, the mechanism of which is largely unknown.