The dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy are well documented and have been proven multiple times. The fact that many people are unaware of is that alcohol also affects the mental health of the unborn child along with the physical damage. If a woman is pregnant or even planning to get pregnant she should immediately refrain from any kind of alcohol, even wine.
The alcohol swiftly passes through the umbilical cord and reaches the foetus. The affected organs are the brain, the central nervous system, limbs, sense organs and the genitalia and the palate. If the mother consumes alcohol regularly the baby suffers physical, mental, intellectual and emotional. No amount of alcohol in any stage of pregnancy is safe for the foetus. The truth of the matter is that even the sperm of the partner may be affected by alcohol consumption and create these complications
Foetal alcohol spectrum disorders
If you are drinking alcohol during pregnancy, the foetus may be stillborn, have low birth weight, be shorter than peers, or have palate issues. But, beyond the physical spectrum, the emotional and mental health issues that such affected children face is humongous. The cognitive issues can range from learning difficulties, language delays, poor memory, poor maths and logical skills, low IQ, low EQ, poor judgement skills to hyperactivity and behavioural issues.
The child may suffer from mental health problems like depression, anxiety and hyperactivity. There is a problem in controlling impulsive behaviour. The child may also have a huge risk of developing substance or alcohol dependence later in life. ND-PAE or Neurobehavioural disorder is associated with prenatal alcohol exposure. These children may show signs of central nervous system problems. There are significant cognitive issues related to drinking alcohol during pregnancy and the child has difficulty in adapting to social and familial situations.
How can the mother protect the baby from these issues?
The simplest answer would be to not drink throughout the pregnancy and while lactating. The first concern is lack of awareness. Family and medical representatives consulted during the period of pregnancy should observe that behaviour pattern of the mother. The awareness of alcohol’s effect on the unborn infant should be able to stop the pregnant woman from drinking.
It is important that the partner and rest of the friends group do not drink in the presence of the pregnant mother and keep temptation out of the way. Offer the lady juice, water or other beverages without alcohol at a party. Some urges to drink pass when you are not tempted by the easy availability of alcohol.
Drinking plenty of water and eating healthy also dissipates the need to drink alcohol. Exercise and healthy food habits are also encouraged. Pursuing a hobby also keeps the mind busy and the craving can be helped to subside. Simple meditation techniques and yoga may also help in calming the mind and helping the mother to negate the impulse to drink.
But, if she still persists with drinking alcohol during pregnancy, it may be an underlying psychological problem with the mother. She needs professional help to stop the abuse. It is a good idea to seek the help of professionals like psychiatrists and counsellors who can help in helping the pregnant woman resolve her addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous and other support groups may also help with the issue. The timely help can be the difference between a physically and mentally healthy child and a child born with FASD (foetal alcohol syndrome deficiency). The problem is often not acceptable to the woman herself, so the partner and the close ones should be aware of the situation and take steps to rectify it.