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Smoking, Alcohol, And Pregnancy

Smoking, Alcohol, And Pregnancy: Frequently Asked Questions

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 15:09

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Here are some frequently asked questions related to smoking, alcohol, and pregnancy:

Q: Are smoking and drinking really dangerous to the unborn baby?

A: Yes. Smoking and drinking alcohol are both associated with serious complications during pregnancy and birth, as well as potentially severe birth defects. In order to protect the health of her baby, a pregnant woman should not smoke or drink during pregnancy. In fact, since damage can occur very early in pregnancy (before a woman even knows she is pregnant), quitting both smoking and drinking before trying to become pregnant is recommended.

Q: Is it okay to reduce, rather than stop, smoking or drinking during pregnancy?

A: No. Although smoking fewer cigarettes or drinking less alcohol could reduce the effects on the baby, that is not a certainty. It is impossible to determine a "safe" level of exposure-even a little bit could harm the baby. Carbon monoxide and alcohol are both poisons, and the unborn baby should not be exposed to them.

Q: I just found out I'm pregnant. Is it too late to stop dinking and/or smoking? Is the damage already done?

A: Although it's true that some damage can be done in early pregnancy, you can still protect your baby's health by not drinking and/smoking from now on. Because smoking and alcohol affect the baby differently at different stages of development, you can still prevent a wide range of effects. In addition, research shows that some of the potential effects of drinking in early pregnancy may be reversed if you quit during the first trimester.

Q: Doesn't fetal alcohol syndrome only occur when the mother drinks heavily during pregnancy?

A: Not necessarily. Many factors can affect the developing baby, and it is unknown just how much alcohol is needed to cause fetal alcohol syndrome. There may not even be a specific amount-each case, each woman, each pregnancy is unique. The only certain way to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome is to avoid drinking during pregnancy.

Q: What are the risks associated with low birthweight?

A: Low birthweight is associated with higher infant mortality-death-than normal birthweight. Low birthweight babies are also at higher risk for serious complications and illness, including breathing disorders, as newborns. They may require specialized medical care in a newborn intensive care unit (NICU).

Smoking, Alcohol, And Pregnancy