June 15, 2024

Physicians have warned that women consuming alcohol during pregnancy stand the risk of having babies with small heads also known as microcephaly.

According to medical experts, alcohol consumption during pregnancy irrespective of the quantity exposes the unborn baby to the risk of poor brain development.

The experts stated this in separate interviews with PUNCH HealthWise, warning that alcohol in pregnancy could cause birth defects.

A consultant gynaecologist, Dr. Stanley Egbogu, told our correspondent that alcohol doesn’t serve any good to pregnant women saying, “What we advise is that they should abstain from alcohol. That is the baseline.”

Egbogu, who works at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, Awka, Anambra, stated that at any level, alcohol was not good for the baby.

The gynaecologist decried the attitude of some women who underestimate the impact of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and still indulge in the act.

“Normally, if a woman has not been taking alcohol, most likely she will not take it during pregnancy. So, you have a situation where most women may have been taking alcohol before even they got pregnant.

“Alcohol affects every organ of the baby and might lead to a baby having a small head – microcephaly. It affects the heart, kidney, and liver of the baby,” he said.

According to him, microcephaly is a condition in which a baby’s head is significantly smaller than expected, often due to abnormal brain development.

Egbogu urged pregnant women still taking alcohol to stop while reminding them that there is no known safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Data from the American Addiction Centres showed that taking alcohol during pregnancy was the leading preventable cause of birth defects.

“Pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant should avoid alcohol completely until after the baby is born. Despite varying guidelines, there is simply no safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

“Drinking alcohol of any kind during pregnancy can cause premature labour, miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of developmental, physical, mental, and emotional disabilities and disorders in the baby, collectively referred to as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders”, the centre warned.

Also speaking, a general medical practitioner, Dr. Makinde Akinlemibola, said it was unfortunate that women are taking alcohol during pregnancy, citing its negative consequences, especially on the child.

Akinlemibola who is the Chairman of the Association of Nigerian Private Medical Practitioners, Lagos State chapter explained, “You see, there are very terrible effects of alcohol on both the mother and the baby that is unborn in terms of proper development of the brain.

“So, the people that are saying there is nothing wrong with alcohol use in pregnancy are either addicted to it and there is nothing that they can do about it or do not understand the effect of alcohol and are not bothered about it.”

He identified ignorance as one of the reasons why pregnant women still drink alcohol.

“Now, if you are the kind of person that takes alcohol or even into cigarette smoking, the advice is that a few months before you conceive, you should stop it.

And subsequently, after delivery, you should sustain that for the benefit of your baby.

“From my experience, babies that are delivered by alcoholic mothers, their mental reasoning is stunted, they are not fully developed, and you will even notice signs of withdrawal by the time they are delivered”, the physician said.

He frowned at the attitude of some women who disregard the proven effects of alcohol consumption in pregnancy on the baby’s formation and development.

The physician said, “Some women are used to taking a lot of alcohol during pregnancy. In my experience, it is not a common practice but we have seen quite a few of them addicted to it and it became detrimental to their babies and themselves.

“When we advise them, they agreed with us. But the issue is that they will say it is difficult for them to stop. But we are still encouraging them to stop totally.

Akinlemibola noted that it was a fallacy that mixing alcohol with milk and drinking it during pregnancy makes the baby’s skin to be smooth.

He urged pregnant women still indulging in the act to desist from it in the interest of their babies.

The World Health Organisation says the effects of alcohol exposure on reproduction and child health are overwhelming.

According to the global health body, a high alcohol intake can affect the ability to conceive as well as bring about pregnancy complications and impaired fetal development.

“Alcohol can interfere with fetal development and cause a range of disorders on a continuum of severity.

“The most severe outcomes of prenatal drinking are related to the frequency of heavy drinking and pattern of drinking, the riskiest being binge drinking patterns.

“Timing of exposure also influences outcomes as certain stages of pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester, involve crucial developments in the fetus.

“No amount of alcohol can therefore be considered safe during pregnancy,” the WHO said.

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