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Experts Corner

Nutrition

Drinking Alcohol Before and During Pregnancy
By Mediconsult's Nutrition Services

Q. When should I stop drinking alcohol, if at all?

A. When planning a pregnancy, both the man and woman should immediately begin limiting alcohol consumption. Infertility problems and birth defects are potential consequences for those who do not. Alcohol is not a nutrient; it is a drug with direct toxic effects to a fetus, and the parents' reproductive systems. It provides calories, but these are 'empty calories' and can lead to undesirable weight gain and nutrient deficiencies. In addition to the health risks for offspring, excess alcohol consumption is associated with hypertension, obesity, stroke, cancer, and many other health problems for the drinker.

It is unclear what dose and at what time during pregnancy alcohol causes the most serious effects in children. FAS children have been born to binge and chronic alcoholics alike. Further, women who drank moderately, one drink or less per day, have given birth to infants with FAS-like effects. Clearly, alcohol use during pregnancy is not yet established to be safe at any level and should be avoided. As there has been evidence suggesting some effects on psychomotor develoment to breast-fed infants when mom had only "one drink" per day, alcohol should be avoided during lactation also.

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