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Signs of Fetal Alcohol Poisoning While Pregnant

author image Catherine Schaffer
Catherine Schaffer has been writing since 1990. Her articles have appeared in many medical journals and textbooks. Schaffer holds a Bachelor of Science from Baylor College of Medicine and a physician assistant certificate. She has written health and nutrition articles for various websites and teaches movement and nutrition to help women overcome chronic diseases and obesity.
Signs of Fetal Alcohol Poisoning While Pregnant
Close-up of a pregnant woman holding four printouts of ultrasounds of her baby. Photo Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

According to the March of Dimes, fetal alcohol poisoning or fetal alcohol syndrome is one of the most common reasons for mental retardation. Between 1000 and 6000 babies are born each year with fetal alcohol syndrome, FAS. The March of Dimes notes that the amount of alcohol that will cause this syndrome is unknown and advises pregnant women not to drink at all. There are certain signs of fetal alcohol poisoning that can be detected during pregnancy.

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Miscarriage or Stillbirth

One of the signs of fetal alcohol poisoning during pregnancy is miscarriage or stillborn birth. The March of Dimes reports that women who binge drink three or more times a week are 56 percent more likely to have a stillborn baby. A birth prior to 37 weeks is considered a premature birth. Babies born prematurely have immature lungs and may not breathe on their own. Premature babies also do not have enough fat stores to regulate their body temperatures, can suffer bleeding into the brain and have heart defects. A very serious complication of prematurity is necrotizing colitis, an infection of the intestines which can be fatal.

Intrauterine Growth Retardation

Babies of mothers who drink are often abnormally small and this can be detected by ultrasound during pregnancy. Intrauterine growth retardation describes a pathological condition of prematurity and low birth weight according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, AAFP. The AAFP also notes that intrauterine growth retardation may be caused by as little as one to two drinks per day. Babies with intrauterine growth retardation caused by alcohol can have permanent neurological consequences.

Physical Defects

When pregnant women drink, the alcohol is passed on to the baby through the placenta. Because of the immaturity of the babies organs, the alcohol is not processed quickly and alcohol levels in the fetus remain high for long periods of time. High alcohol levels can cause physical defects which can be detected by ultrasound during pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome causes babies to have heart defects known as ventricular septal defect or atrial septal defect according to The brain of the fetus can be affected by the mother’s alcohol consumption. On ultrasound the skull will be small as well as the brain of the fetus. Other abnormalities include defects in the upper jaw and lip according to the March of Dimes.

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