Any exposure of an unborn child to alcohol during the mother’s pregnancy may affect the fetus. Heavy use of alcohol during pregnancy can result in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, commonly known as FAS. FAS is one of the top three causes of birth defects and affects approximately 1 in every 750 babies. When a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol passes through the placenta and into the fetus’s blood.
The fetus’s liver cannot effectively process the alcohol. The alcohol remains in the baby’s system long after it has been eliminated from the mother’s body. FAS causes low birth weight; deformities of the limbs, joints, fingers, and face; a small head circumference; central nervous system dysfunction, and heart defects. Sometimes the symptoms of FAS do not appear until adolescence when the child suddenly becomes hyperactive or exhibits learning and perceptual difficulties. As the child enters his teens, physical problems may begin including chronic ear infections, hearing loss, and dental and vision problems.
A woman should refrain from drinking while she is trying to conceive, throughout her pregnancy, and after the baby’s birth if she breastfeeds her baby.