Abusing substances such as alcohol can be dangerous to health and mental wellbeing, but those who abuse this substance while pregnant are also putting the health and wellbeing of their unborn child at risk. For those with an alcohol problem who discover they are pregnant, alcohol treatment is more important than ever. Without this treatment, the health and lives of both the mother and the foetus are at risk.
The Danger of Alcohol Abuse for the Unborn Child
As mother and baby share the same blood and air supply, anything the mother ingests while pregnant can transfer to the baby through the umbilical cord; this includes alcohol. It was once believed that small amounts of alcohol would not have an adverse effect on the unborn child, and so women were advised to limit their alcohol consumption when pregnant. However, as part of the revised alcohol guidelines published by the UK government in January 2016, pregnant women are now advised to abstain from alcohol completely throughout their entire pregnancy. This is due to the risks that this chemical substance poses for the foetus.
Alcohol can cause a host of physical and mental problems for the child, both in the womb and once it has been born. Those affected by foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) can suffer from developmental problems throughout their lives.
Despite the warnings about drinking alcohol during pregnancy, it would appear that a growing number of people continue to do so. Dr Helen Palmer has told Gateshead councillors that the number of children in care in the area due to issues caused by their mothers alcohol consumption during pregnancy is snowballing.
According to Dr Palmer, around fifty to sixty per cent of the children being looked after by Gateshead Council has some form of FASD. She said that although health officials only began to look for the signs of FASD in looked-after children in March 2015, they have already found that of the 350 children in care in the area, 100 have some form of it.
She added, We have always known alcohol affects children by causing physical disabilities, but now it is becoming apparent that alcohol causes damage to a lot more children than we previously thought. The number of children with FASD is snowballing.
She noted that FASD could have actually caused many of the diagnoses that have been made in children over the years, including ADHD, autism and attachment disorders.
Dr Palmer said that drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause harm to the developing brain of the foetus, but noted that many of these problems occur when women drink alcohol before they even realise they are pregnant.
She is hoping that early diagnosis of FASD could help with the prevention of secondary disabilities in the child. She added, We want to be diagnosing the disorder by the age of six if we are going to get the best outcome for the child.
Dr Palmer said that more needs to be done in terms of training appropriate staff to recognise FASD and that there needs to be a conscious effort to identify if women have been drinking in pregnancy. She said, When speaking to pregnant women, we need to ask them more about their alcohol. We ask a lot about drug use because these are illegal but not enough about their alcohol. When we do ask if a person has been drinking, they might well say no, either because they cannot remember or because there is a stigma attached to drinking while pregnant. For too long we have been giving mixed messages about how much is alright to drink while pregnant, only recently have we said pregnant women shouldnt drink at all; we are 20 years behind much of the rest of the Western world in that advice.
How FASD Affects the Child
Children with FASD exhibit a number of physical and mental symptoms, including:
- restricted growth
- hyperactive behaviour
- distinctive facial features
- memory problems
- hearing and vision problems
- poor coordination
- problems with internal organs including heart, kidney and liver.
Some children with FASD will experience severe physical and mental disabilities, and these issues will affect them for the rest of their lives. The sad thing is that FASD is an entirely preventable condition. Nevertheless, abstaining from alcohol is easier said than done for those with an alcohol problem.
Overcoming Alcoholism While Pregnant
Women with alcohol problems who discover they are pregnant will have an immediate choice begin alcohol treatment or risk the life of their unborn baby. It is often the case that pregnancy can act as the catalyst for overcoming addiction.
The good news is that alcohol treatment is available from various organisations around the UK, many of them specialising in treatment for pregnant women. With a combination of therapy and counselling, pregnant women can learn how to abstain from alcohol and give their baby a chance of being born healthy.
Here at UK Rehab, we can put you in touch with a suitable alcohol treatment provider where you can safely detox and recover from your illness. For more information on our services, get in touch today. We would urge you to contact us as soon as possible because the sooner you stop drinking, the higher the chance of you having a healthy baby. Every day you delay is another day that your child is exposed to the risks associated with alcohol.
Source: Number of children affected by mothers drinking alcohol while pregnant is ‘snowballing’ (Chronicle Live)