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Drinking During Pregnancy: British Mums More Likely To Put Babies At Risk

Drinking During Pregnancy: British Mums More Likely To Put Babies At Risk

Shocking new research reveals that British mums-to-be are more likely to be putting their babies at risk, by drinking when pregnant, than almost any other nation on earth!

British mums are topping the tables – for all the wrong reasons. A study published by Dr. Svetlana Popova PhD in The Lancet, reveals that pregnant Brits are more likely to be putting their unborn babies at risk from damage caused by foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) than almost anywhere else on the planet1.

What is Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)?

FAS is a condition linked to alcohol consumption by the mother during pregnancy which can affect the development of the child.

Alcohol is a teratogen – an agent that can cause the malformation of an embryo. During pregnancy, alcohol passes easily from mother to child across the placenta. Once passed through to the developing foetus, the foetus (whose liver is not yet fully formed) has difficulty processing the alcohol. This causes growth issues throughout the body of the developing baby.

Brain matter too is sensitive to alcohol, and is affected developmentally. Facial deformities can occur within the first few weeks of pregnancy when the features begin to take shape. Other parts of the body, such as the brain and the spine, continue to grow throughout pregnancy and can be affected at any point.

How Does Alcohol Affect The Foetus?

The types of adverse outcomes most likely from FAS are as follows:

  • Brain damage
  • Organ damage
  • Stillbirth
  • Spontaneous abortion
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Pre-natal/post-natal growth restrictions
  • Behavioural and emotional disorders

A child with foetal alcohol syndrome disorder (FASD) is likely to suffer from the following:

  • Learning difficulties
  • Facial feature deformity
  • Hyperactivity
  • Problems with language
  • Poor short term memory
  • ADHD
  • Mental health problems
  • Hearing and vision issues
  • Organ problems – heart, liver, lungs

Alcohol And Pregnancy – The Details

One in 67 women who consume alcohol when pregnant will deliver a child with FAS. Around 119,000 children each year are born with foetal alcohol syndrome.

On average around 10% of pregnant women in the world will drink when pregnant. In some regions, however, this finding was considerably higher. Notably Europe, where the higher rates of alcohol consumption when pregnant has led to a much higher prevalence of FAS: two to six times higher than the global average!

Most shocking, the UK is almost at the top of the list for the percentage of pregnant women who drink and therefore endanger their unborn child.

41% of UK women drink when pregnant, according to the study. That’s four times the global average.

  1. Ireland
  2. Belarus
  3. Denmark
  4. UK
  5. Russia

Brits outstrip even the Americans (14.8%) and Australians (36%) and the UK is the 4th worst performing country out of the 50 European countries, way ahead of France (27%) and Germany at (26%).

And we shouldn’t underestimate the prevalence of FAS itself. In the US, FAS exceeds other birth defects, including Down’s, spina bifida and anencephaly. Conversely, in the Eastern Mediterranean Region and South-East Asia Region, numbers of FAS cases were far lower, in keeping with the cultural norms of alcohol abstinence.

In addition, the number of FAS cases is predicted to rise in coming years in line with a continual rise in unplanned pregnancies and the popularity of ‘binge’ drinking.

What Can Be Done?

These result are worrying and possibly just the tip of the iceberg according to Dr. Svetlana Popova. How many current conditions that we find in children today can we attribute retrospectively to FAS for example?

The truth is, however, that not all women who drink deliver a child with FAS. The study acknowledges also that there will be other factors contributing to the overall diagnosis, such as:

  • Genetic background
  • Environmental issues
  • Smoking/nutrition
  • Stress
  • Paternal lifestyle

However, the results of the study are glaringly obvious. In countries where drinking during pregnancy is high, we see a corresponding high prevalence of FAS.

Is It Safe For A Pregnant Woman To Drink Alcohol?

The fact is, there is no safe alcohol limit for pregnant women. So whilst many of us get away with the odd tipple here and there, perhaps it’s time to consider that the best thing we can do for our children’s future is to give up drinking altogether whilst pregnant?

REFERENCES

 [1] http://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(17)30021-9/fulltext

 

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