Smoking and Drinking During Unknown Pregnancy

It is not uncommon for women to discover that they are pregnant well after 8 weeks into the pregnancy. There have been reports of women only discovering their pregnancy in the last trimester or even close to delivery. But what happens if you have not ‘behaved’ the way you should have in the first month or two of pregnancy largely because were unaware that you were pregnant in the first place? After all, we all know that drinking and smoking during pregnancy should be avoided at all costs.

Will early pregnancy drinking and smoking harm the baby?

Yes, smoking and drinking in early pregnancy can harm your unborn baby. In fact it can even increase the risk of conditions such as cot death or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) even after an otherwise health baby is born. Fortunately the consequences of drinking and smoking in early pregnancy are not always serious in every case. This does not excuse any purposeful alcohol drinking or cigarette smoking who know that they are pregnant but do not wish to stop these lifestyle habits.

However, if you did partake in these detrimental lifestyle habits while pregnant then you need not be too concerned immediately. Firstly stop drinking and smoking altogether the moment you confirm your pregnancy. Change to a more healthy diet if you have not done so already, take prenatal vitamin and mineral supplements as advised and reduce your stress levels. Second speak to your doctor about tests that can be done early to identify any fetal abnormalities, irrespective of whether it is due to these lifestyle habits or not.

What is the risk to baby?

The reality of the matter is that the incidence of conditions like fetal alcohol syndrome is not 100% with prenatal alcohol exposure. The incidence significantly increases with heavy drinking throughout pregnancy. The same applies to the adverse effects of fetal exposure to the chemicals in tobacco smoke – whether the mother is a smoker herself or a passive smoker who is repeatedly exposed to the fumes of a close contact. Understandably responsible mothers will be concerned about what damage they may have already caused.

There is no way of knowing for sure which baby will be affected by mother’s drinking and smoking, and which baby will not be. Furthermore many mothers do not disclose their drinking or smoking during pregnancy so it is difficult to rely entirely on statistics. Some studies have suggested the rate of FAS among high risk pregnant-drinkers to be as high as 44%. The health risks are not even obvious at birth.Smoking and drinking can cause pregnancy complications or even increase the risk of other diseases in the child after birth, even if there are no fetal abnormalities.

According to the CDC, there is no safe amount of alcohol that a pregnant woman can drink. Similarly there is no known safe time when alcohol can be consumed in pregnancy. As a general rule it should be avoided altogether during pregnancy. However, if you have erred when you were unaware that you were pregnant then rather look ahead to having a health pregnancy instead of worrying about what has already been done and cannot be changed.

References:

www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/alcohol-use.html

emedicine.medscape.com/article/974016-overview#a0199

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