Here’s why drinking alcohol during pregnancy is not okay

Friday May 15 2020

The truth is that any amount of alcohol while

The truth is that any amount of alcohol while pregnant, can have harmful effects on the fetus. PHOTO | FILE 

By Dr Chris Peterson

Wondering if it’s okay to have an occasional drink during pregnancy? Worried because you already did before you found out you were expecting? Here’s what you need to know about drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Samson* is 6-year-old patient and a standard one pupil. His mother recently brought him to the hospital because of multiple abnormalities that have been there since he was born.

His parents didn’t take them seriously, hoping that they could ward off on their own as he grows up, until when he started school, and his teachers complained that Samson could barely concentrate with studies due to what they said, intellectual disability, poor concentration, learning disorders and poor memory.

His parents then, decided to take him to a paediatric psychologist where by the psychologist recommend to take the child to hospital for further neurological checkup, since the boy was somewhat, intellectually disabled.

When they came in, I could easily notice a lot of deformities, both physically and mentally before even I began my assessment.

His facial features were distinctive, in fact, he was looking as if he’s drunk, difficulty in responding to questions, his head circumference and other parts of the body looked too slowly-growing compared to his age, trouble being attentive and so forth.


In the midst of it I went further to dig into both his social history and parents’ social history so as to connect the dots, to help reach a conclusion. Ans that’s when his mother made a confession that she takes alcohol and she had been drinking even during the entire first trimester of Samson’s pregnancy.

That, directly dragged me into impression that Samson might be suffering from what we call, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), a condition in a child that results from alcohol exposure during the mother’s pregnancy. FAS usually causes brain damage and growth problems.

Now, to be sure of his diagnosis, Samson was referred to a paediatrician for neurological tests and other further managements and all the test results showed that Samson was suffering from FAS.

His mother confessed that she wasn’t really aware that alcohol drinking could permanently affect his boy despite being warned by her gynaecologist during her clinic sessions.

As soon as you find out you are pregnant, one of the first questions you may have to ask is whether you should change your drinking habit or not.

Especially if, like many other women, you’ve heard of moms who drank a glass of wine here and there or even nightly during pregnancy and delivered perfectly healthy babies.

Many pregnant mothers believe that light drinking during pregnancy especially during the initial days of the pregnancy is perfectly acceptable.

The truth is that any amount of alcohol while pregnant, can have harmful effects on the fetus.

The majority of people know of the main problem associated with alcohol consumption by pregnant women, which is FAS, known to cause birth defects including development disability.

What they don’t know is that light amount of alcohol can cause effects that are not revealed until the child is of school-going age or later.

The problems caused by FAS vary from child to child, but defects caused by this syndrome are irreversible.

There is no amount of alcohol that is known to be safe to consume during pregnancy. If you drink during pregnancy, you place your baby at risk of FAS.

If you suspect your child has this problem, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis may reduce the risk of problems such as learning difficulties and behaviour issues.

The author is a medical doctor based in Dar es Salaam.