Alcohol and Fetal Abuse
Does the consumption of alcohol by a pregnant woman constitute “fetal abuse”?
Alcohol use by a pregnant woman poses extreme risk to the fetus. Everything consumed during pregnancy has an impact on the unborn child --whatever a woman eats or drinks so does her fetus. Drinking during pregnancy opens the doors to various harmful affects on the unborn child, both physical and mental. The adverse affects of alcohol vary with the stage of pregnancy and the amount of alcohol consumed on each occasion. Children born with complications caused by alcohol are said to have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) or Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE). These affects are decisively preventable, but are an irreversible, incurable, and cause life long damage to the child.
Drinking alcohol while pregnant is the same as feeding alcohol to your baby. Alcohol avoids the normal digestive process and goes directly into the bloodstream, so when a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol in the mother’s blood crosses the placenta freely and enters the fetus through the umbilical cord. However, unlike the mother, the liver of the fetus cannot process the alcohol at the same rate, therefore it stays in the fetus for longer periods. The concentration of alcohol in the unborn baby’s bloodstream is at the same or sometimes higher level as the mother. The fetus is too immature to metabolize the alcohol by itself and must rely on its mother for the elimination of the alcohol. For the unborn child, the alcohol interferes with its ability to get enough oxygen and nourishment for normal cell development in the brain and other body organs.
The obvious advice is not to drink while pregnant, for there is no safe level at which one can drink. Early exposure indicates the greatest risk for serious physical defects, and late exposure increases the chance of neurological and growth deficiencies or miscarriage. During the first trimester, alcohol may affect the way cells grow and arrange themselves as they multiply, altering the tissue growth in parts of the developing fetus. In the second trimester and third trimesters, miscarriage is a high peril. In addition, during the third trimester, alcohol can impair growth and harm the central nervous system. The brain, which is developing in all trimesters, can be affected throughout the pregnancy. (See diagram on next page)
These life long damages are labeled as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) or Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE). FAS is characterized by growth retardation, facial abnormalities, and central nervous system dysfunction caused by a woman’s use of alcohol during pregnancy. The lesser degree of alcohol related damage is referred to as FAE. Potential harms, which arise because of alcohol, include smaller brain, head and/or body, heart, kidney and/or urinary defects, not to mention life long social and behavioral problems. Theses effects last a lifetime, but are preventable by not drinking.
Given the above information on the affects of alcohol on a fetus, it is clear to assume that drinking while pregnant is “fetal abuse”. FAS is a large price to pay for a few drinks during pregnancy, yet some mothers are reluctant to admit they are harming their babies and continue to drink. An unborn baby’s life is in the hands of the mother. If she decides to drink, she is risking the unborn chances is being as smart and healthy as it could be. Not matter how little or heavy the amount of alcohol a mother drinks, it will still affect the fetus. It is a moral obligation not to jeopardize the well being of the unborn child. If a mother is willing to drink while pregnant, knowingly aware of the risks, she is obviously not ready to make sacrifices for the child and therefore should not have one.
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