Alcohol and pregnancy

“Children are like flowers in our life”. Naturally, each woman finds it very important that her own “flower” be born strong and healthy.

 It’s often the case that would-be parents do not plan to conceive a child, and, therefore, the lifestyle they maintain before confirmation of onset of pregnancy is far from being ideal. There may arise situations where at least one parent consumed alcohol at the time of conception. The question is if this could affect the child’s health?  

At the moment of conception a male spermatozoon fuses with a mature female oocyte. Then the oocyte begins to fragment intensively and move slowly towards the uterine cavity along the uterine tubes. The oocyte enters the uterus in the form of loose concentration of cells. This process takes 1 week precisely. During the 2nd week the fertilized oocyte immerses into the uterine wall and gets attached thereto with the help of a newly generated branchy membrane. During the period of the first two weeks of generation the fertilized oocyte becomes rather vulnerable and, thus, the action of such external negative factors as alcohol is based on principle “all or nothing”. That is, the fetal ovum either dies or continues to develop. More often than not those two weeks pass before the beginning of the next menstrual cycle, and the woman may not be aware yet of her new condition of pregnancy.

All fetal organs and systems start generating from week 3 to week 12. During this particular period the action of any external adverse factors may give rise to the development of fetal abnormalities of different nature and complexity.

Beginning from the 12th week, the process of fetus development and refinement goes on. At this time, the effects of negative factors may cause its malfunctioning.

Alcohol before pregnancy

It is scientifically proved that alcohol consumed by would-be genetic father 2-3 months before the conception, as well as on the day of conception may have a harmful effect on the health of a child to be born.

Under normal conditions semen of healthy non-drinking men contains up to 25 % of pathological spermatozoa (normal spermogram parameters). However, their chances to be involved in the conception process are much lower than those of healthy reproductive cells. At the same time, following the consumption of alcohol, the chances of healthy and pathological cells are practically set equal! The results may be dismal: the oocyte is fertilized with a defective spermatozoon, and the newborn child will suffer different development anomalies.

Similarly to the process of development of male spermatozoa, the process of maturation of female oocytes may be affected by different factors, including alcohol. However, no development abnormalities arise during the pre-implantation period; in other words, it is hardly possible that alcohol consumed by the mother during the period from initiation of the last menstruation to the time of conception have any adverse effects on the child expected to be born.

Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy

The nature itself certainly seeks to protect humanity from consequences of alcoholism. The risk of miscarriage for women consuming alcohol is two times higher than that for women who never consume alcohol. In this case various genetic anomalies and development disorders, a part of which may result from the action of alcohol, are often the reason for miscarrying on early days of pregnancy.

Both alcohol itself (ethanol) and its disintegration products (such as acetaldehyde) cause a harmful action on the fetus. The ethanol effects lead to spasms of placenta and umbilical cord, thus interfering with the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. Acetaldehyde causes a damaging effect on embryo cells, bringing about changes in genetic matter (DNA), and, as a result, different development anomalies.  Alcohol upsets exchange of vitamins, hormones in fetal tissues and organs. The central nervous system is especially sensitive to it, which subsequently causes the child to display intellectual and behavioral disorders. Consumption of alcohol by a woman at the time of pregnancy materially enhances the risk of miscarriage, birth of low-weight children, while in most complicated cases promotes the development of the so called fetal alcoholic syndrome. This syndrome involves brain anomalies and disorders (associated with functions of the central nervous system, including neurological anomalies, mental deficiency, disorders in behavior, intellect and/or brain structure anomalies), prenatal and/or postnatal length and weight deficiency, facial structure specifics, short palpebral fissure, smoothed infranasal depression, thin upper lip (upper lip edge). Regretfully, the consequences of fetal intrauterine affection are irreversible and are not practically subject to treatment.

The above information gives rise to the following reasonable question: if a degree of harm caused to the child’s health depends on the quantity of alcohol, frequency of its consumption or on anything else? Naturally, the quantity and frequency of consumption of alcoholic beverages influence materially the nature of consequences of alcohol impact on the fetus. According to the research data, there exists no unique dose of alcohol, which would be safe for everyone! The harm caused to the fetus by alcohol depends on specifics of mother’s body, its ability to digest alcohol and response to it, condition of female body and systems as of the time of pregnancy, food, attendant evil habits, such as smoking, fetus genotype (which depends on reproductive cells involved in the conception process), term of pregnancy, as well as many other factors. It’s quite evident that the fetus should not be exposed even to the minimum risk. Therefore, recommendations given by most of the doctors are rather explicit: no alcohol should be consumed at all during pregnancy! And it would be still better if would-be parents cease to consume alcoholic beverages during the period preceding conception (at least 3 months before it).

The way to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy

Some women treat alcohol as the means to relax and relieve strain. In this case, doctors recommend that some other stress-relieving methods should be used, such as, for example:

Warm bath with sea salt. Please bear in mind that water temperature should not exceed 36-37 degrees. If you got accustomed to take balsamic baths, please consider that the use of many essential oils is strictly forbidden in condition of pregnancy. 

Massage. Effective means to relieve your neck, shoulders or feet from strain. As far as self-massage is concerned, the massage of your wrists and fingers, involving the use of special cosmetic oils or lotions, as well as massage of the head skin produces a favorable effect on the nervous system.

Swimming in a pool. Apart from relieving stress, this exercise has an overall beneficial effect on condition of mother’s health. The common medical opinion is that chlorine used to disinfect water in many pools does not have any adverse impact on the fetus, if its concentration in water does not exceed the normal value. However, many would-be mothers who suffer toxicosis may not swim in pools with chlorinated water. Those women as well as mothers who prefer that the risk of chlorinated water effects on the fetus be completely avoided can be recommended to make use of pools providing for other water decontamination methods: ozone, ultraviolet treatment. Apart from it, there are pools using the so called “sea water”. They are sourced by underground natural springs with their mineral water composition being similar to that of sea water.

It is recommended for would-be mothers to have walks out-of-doors, which would benefit their health, body and contribute to proper fetus development. Besides, this is  the excellent stress-relieving means.

Replace wine and beer with soft drinks. Your romantic evening with candles will not suffer at all, if you fill your crystal glass with juice or fruit water.

Apparently, would-be parents should lend an attentive ear to common expert opinions and guard themselves against different adverse effects, including alcohol at least 3 months before the intended conception date, should they be interested in pregnancy and giving birth to a healthy child. Just never forget that your child’s health is at stake and must not be exposed to any risks.