Some experts say moderate drinking during pregnancy is okay, but there are others who believe taking even one drink is like playing Russian Roulette with your baby's health.
One thing is clear, if you are pregnant and take a drink -- a glass of wine, a beer or a cocktail -- your unborn child takes the same drink. Whatever you eat or drink while pregnant goes directly through your bloodstream into the placenta.
What effect does alcohol have on a fetus?
A woman who drinks alcohol while she is pregnant may harm her developing baby (fetus). Alcohol can pass from the mother’s blood into the baby’s blood. It can damage and affect the growth of the baby’s cells. Brain and spinal cord cells are most likely to have damage.
The term "fetal alcohol spectrum disorder" (FASD) describes the range of alcohol effects on a child. The problems range from mild to severe. Alcohol can cause a child to have physical or mental problems that may last all of his or her life.
The effects of alcohol can include:
- Distinctive facial features. A child may have a small head, flat face, and narrow eye openings, for instance. This gets more obvious by age 2 or 3.
- Growth problems. Children who were exposed to alcohol before they were born may be smaller than other children of the same age.
- Learning and behavior problems.
- Birth defects.
- Problems bonding or feeding as a newborn.
Heavy alcohol use during pregnancy can also lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or a baby being born early.