- Fertility & Reproductive Systems
Smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption during pregnancy.
What not to do whilst pregnant and if you do how to decrease the risks of anomalies
Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can result in a spectrum of dangers to the foetus.
Various incidents of alcohol related birth defects have been recorded. As little as 2 grams of alcohol per kilo of body weight consumed daily can cause FASD (as mentioned above).
These defects consist of anomalies of the eyes, nose, heart and central nervous system, and is accompanied by growth retardation, a small head circumference and mental retardation.
It's a no joke proven theory that alcohol can harm the unborn child, and the risk should be enough to prevent occurrence. Although, I have no prejudice held against those who may as environmental factors are seemingly what determine the outcome of maternal health. This is a no judgement zone - it is merely a platform to educate and create a knowledge in those who previously thought otherwise. I have never been pregnant therefore I could never understand the hardships and stress that would surely become unbearable at times. The solution lies in building a support network and acceptance within one another. I am extremely interested in maternal health; hence my enthusiasm on the subject.
Regardless of alcohol's known dangers FASD is unlikely to cause death but is associated with permanent physical and intellectual disabilities. If you think about the size of the average pregnant woman then compare that to the size of a new born (approximate average of term babies) and further consider the mental and physical effects alcohol has on the adult body you can then begin to comprehend the damage it would do to a technically "under construction" mini me.
We do not full understand how alcohol effects the foetus on a cellular level, all the more reason not to risk it if possible. Since alcohol can pass across the placenta quite easily (as it is extremely permeable from its small size) and the ratio of absorption of mother to baby is almost equal it has been hypothesised that there is a direct toxic effect.
Alcohol has right of way in the body it is very selfish. As you may have been advised by your GP at some stage that antibiotics and alcohol do not mix, well this is exactly because alcohol pushes in-front of the anti-biotics potentially being absorbed faster then usual and causing collateral malabsorption of your medication. The same goes with nutrients. When your playing "build a baby" there are a lot of requirements. I mean you are essentially making a human. Construction management down stairs is going to yell out when in need of a particular amino or mineral perhaps and alcohol is like a competitors coming along and stealing all your unused bricks. In other words alcohol prevents the nutrients from getting to bubba from mama. These micronutrient deficiencies may contribute to developmental, behavioural and cognitive problems.
"All children exposed to alcohol during pregnancy are adversely affected or affected to the same degree."
Moderate alcohol intake is considered to be one to two standard drinks per day. When a pregnant woman drinks moderately she increases her risk of spontaneous abortions. Once again no judgement held, nor am I trying to be discriminatory I cannot possibly know everyone's story but there are women who may have fallen pregnant tomorrow and need a stress free zone to discover the consequences.
There are some surprising facts - the chance of low birth weight babies and premature delivery has been shown to DECREASE with alcohol consumption. I mean wow. Let's all just get on the champagne right?
I mean new-age pregnancy is almost cruel isn't it? We finally have all these delicious coffee shops but new medicine is then going to tell you that fatigue is a symptom but you cannot touch those creamy brown tops.
Never-the-less "it has been estimated that 75% of pregnant women consume caffeine". Are you surprised?
A 60kg woman would need to be consuming 10-14 cups of coffee a day for it to reach dangerous levels in her plasma. There have been some occasions where lower caffeine doses have caused spontaneous miscarraiges.
"A large prospective cohort study in the UK (2635 women) published by the CARE study group in 2008 confirmed previous research findings that a maternal caffeine intake of >300 mg/day is associated with low birth weight or foetal growth restriction. This group found that an average caffeine intake of >100 mg/day was associated with a reduction in birth weight of 66–88 g in the third trimester. This group concluded that although the threshold at which risk increases is not well characterised, the association of foetal growth restriction with caffeine is reduced for those consuming <100 mg/day (one coffee per day). On publication of these findings, the NHMRC in Australia pledged to determine a recommended intake of caffeine for pregnant women in Australia and the UK Food Standards Agency lowered its recommended upper limit from 300 mg/day to 200mg/day." - Deakin University
The effects of smoking on foetal growth cannot be sugar coated. Unfortunately, nicotine is estimated to be the most toxic substance. For example, 60mg of nicotine injected into a fully grown adult male (who has never smoked) would kill him instantly - need I say more about the effects it would have on an unborn child? Smoking is well associated with a number of poor pregnancy outcomes such as spontaneous abortion, foetal death and complications of pregnancy and increased perinatal loss.
What can you do to try prevent these anomolies?
"Increased weight gain in pregnancy can reduce the extent of foetal growth retardation but are not substitutes for not smoking, as the prevalence of the major causes of increased foetal and neonatal mortality in smokers remains the same irrespective of weight gain during pregnancy." - Deakin Professor
"It is still possible however that deficits in bone mineral density and susceptibility to respiratory disease persist in offspring of smokers. Additionally, rapid catch up growth after a period of foetal growth restraint may predispose to obesity later in life. " - Deakin University
Thanks for reading.