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Alcohol Use During Pregnancy: The Sobering Truth

We all know it’s wrong to drink alcohol while pregnant.
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It’s something we heard about way back in high school health class, saw in public-service ads and read about in parenting magazines. Sometimes, though, it can be easy to slip up – like that glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve or a beer at the end of a brutal day. For some people, though, it’s even more difficult to stay away from the booze. Addicts may face a very difficult road during pregnancy.

Unfortunately, those who abuse alcohol during pregnancy are setting up their children for many health problems and a greater likelihood to abuse alcohol themselves. Arm yourself with the facts about how alcohol abuse during and after pregnancy can affect your child. The sobering statistics just may help you kick the habit.

What Alcohol Does to Your Unborn Baby

Drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects or even a serious disorder called fetal alcohol syndrome. Problems associated with fetal alcohol syndrome include physical deformities, developmental delays, learning disabilities, behavioral difficulties and other issues. The March of Dimes reports a variety of birth defects caused by drinking while pregnant, including problems with the heart, brain and other organs; premature birth; and vision or hearing problems, among others.

The above issues are generally caused by prolonged and excessive alcohol use during pregnancy. What about just the occasional drink or two? Different doctors may give different advice about this: some may say a drink or two won’t hurt; others recommend against drinking entirely. This conflicting advice can make it difficult for women to tell what’s right or wrong for them.

For these reasons, and due to unknown factors related to enzymes that break down the amount of alcohol in the body, the Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Surgeon General, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology all recommend against drinking any amount of alcohol during pregnancy. Their stance is: It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to exposing a fetus to alcohol.

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Getting the Message Out

Various organizations and media are constantly putting out information about the risks of alcohol during pregnancy. Most recently, 12 Keys, a drug and alcohol rehab facility,  has produced a series of ads targeting the effects of alcohol on babies and children. This ad program is called “They Are More Like You Than You Think,” and includes startling images of babies and children drinking alcohol and even abusing drugs.

The point of these ads is to really drive home the fact that alcohol negatively affects children not only in utero, but also after birth. Children can be born harboring alcohol’s ill effects, and if they grow up in a home where alcohol abuse is prevalent, they are more likely to become abusers themselves. Ads like these focus on the fact that adults’ decisions can have a major impact on their children’s lives.

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The photographs – including a baby sipping a tropical beverage and a little girl with a cupcake in one hand and a beer in the other – are accompanied by sobering statistics about alcohol’s effects on babies and children. Facts like “Alcohol withdrawal for a baby begins just hours after birth and can last up to 18 months” and “Children of alcoholics are four times more likely to develop a drinking problem” are aimed at startling the reader into thinking twice about their actions.

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The hope here is that the campaign will create an awareness of the effects of alcohol on children. This is an adult problem that can have very serious consequences on children’s lives and health.

By keeping the damaging physical and psychological effects of alcohol abuse in the spotlight, ads like these hopefully will encourage women to abstain from drinking during pregnancy. Sometimes a disturbing picture and straight-up facts do the best job of getting this important message across.


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