Pregnant Women & Mothers

    Drinking While Pregnant

    If you or someone you know if pregnant, drinking alcohol can be devastating for the baby. One glass of wine, beer, or liquor may help you relax, but the alcohol has a much greater effect on your baby’s brain.

    What happens to your body

    As the alcohol in your bloodstream passes through the placenta, your baby’s developing body can’t break down the alcohol as quickly as you can. Since babies are constantly growing within the womb, drinking alcohol can seriously interfere with their growth process, especially in the first trimester.

    Drinking While Pregnant

    There’s no such thing as a “safe” amount of alcohol when you’re pregnant. Even a few ounces can do damage to your baby’s brain, spinal cord, central nervous system, and heart. Doctors constantly go back and forth on whether or not wine is ok in small amounts, but it’s not worth the risk. Is a glass of wine at night worth your baby having physical or mental disabilities? Is a glass of wine worth your baby not surviving at all?

    Drinking While Breastfeeding

    If you plan on breastfeeding, you should also plan for a few more months of remaining alcohol-free. Since alcohol can pass through to your breast milk, it would be similar to you drinking when you were pregnant with you baby inside you. Alcohol can also reduce the amount of breast milk that you can produce, which can limit the nutrients your baby receives.

    Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

    Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) is the term used for the many birth defects and disorders caused by alcohol use. One of the most common disorders under the spectrum is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Babies with FAS are usually considered mentally retarded and struggle to lead normal lives, but it is the only form of mental retardation considered preventable. Even if your baby doesn’t suffer from FAS, they can still develop a combination of these side effects:

    • Low birth weight: Low birth weight places an infant at a higher risk for illness, intellectual disability, and even death 
    • Birth defects of the heart, liver, kidney, eyes, ears, and other organs
    • Speech and language difficulties
    • Stunted height and development
    • Born too early
    • Miscarriage or stillbirth
    • Brain defect/damage
    • Psychological problems
    • Learning disabilities
    • Mental retardation

    Any drug – marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine or other substances that a pregnant woman takes goes into her baby’s body. The food a woman eats, the beverages she drinks, and the drugs she takes, all pass through the umbilical cord from her body to the unborn baby’s body. The baby has no protection from any drugs that are put into her body. 

    Facts you should know:

    • Drugs can starve oxygen from the baby’s body and stop it from growing. The baby can be born too small or too early, making it more likely that the baby will die in the first year of life.
    • Heroin and other narcotics, including methadone, can cause a baby to go through drug withdrawal. They can cause your baby to shake, tremor, cry hard, and have diarrhea and vomiting. The baby may go through withdrawal from narcotics just like an adult who quits heroin “cold turkey.” Needle use puts both you and your baby at risk for Hepatitis and AIDS.
    • Cocaine and methamphetamine can cause a baby to have a stroke or heart attack in the womb by cutting off the blood supply to the baby’s brain, heart, and body. 
    • All drugs can enter the baby through the mother’s breast milk, which can hurt the baby’s brain development. 
    • Using cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and other narcotics can cause miscarriage, early birth, and nervous system problems in the baby. 
    • Babies who mothers use drugs are more likely to die of crib death.
    • Children whose mothers use drugs during pregnancy can have learning and behavior problems when they get to school age. These problems include trouble paying attention, aggressive behavior, and being easily thrown off track when they are trying to think or solve a problem.

    ©2023 County of Santa Clara. All rights reserved.