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What are the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant?

The dangers of drinking alcohol for pregnant women and their unborn babies are well documented. Like many other drugs, alcohol easily passes from a mother to her baby through the placenta. Prenatal alcohol exposure is the single greatest preventable cause of mental retardation.

One of the greatest dangers of alcohol use during pregnancy is fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), the most severe form of FASD. Low birth weight, congenital anomalies, severe behavioral and neurological problems and learning and physical disabilities are some symptoms experienced by infants and children exposed to alcohol in the uterus.

Children diagnosed with FAS suffer the severest damage related to alcohol exposure, including facial changes and mental retardation.

For the mother, alcohol use during pregnancy has been associated with high blood pressure, miscarriage, premature delivery, stillbirth and anemia.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

You should avoid alcohol while your are pregnant because alcohol is a teratogen, or a substance that can cause birth defects and developmental problems if used during pregnancy. Infants born to mothers who use alcohol are at risk for poor growth, seizures and fetal alcohol syndrome. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a syndrome that results in a low IQ, learning disabilities and difficulty focusing. How much or how little alcohol it takes during pregnancy to result in birth defects is not known. For this reason it is recommended that women avoid alcohol altogether.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.