Drinking alcohol during pregnancy

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy

The range of effects of drinking during pregnancy is great. The risk of miscarriage almost doubles for women who drink alcohol in any form during pregnancy, especially if they drink heavily. Often, the birth weight of babies born to women who drink during pregnancy is substantially below normal (less than 2.5 kilogrammes).

The average birth weight is about 2 kilos for babies exposed to significant amounts of alcohol, compared with 3.3 kilos for all normal babies. Newborns of women who drank during pregnancy may not thrive and are more likely to die soon after birth. Fetal alcohol syndrome is one of the most serious consequences of drinking during pregnancy.

It occurs in about 2 of 1,000 live births. The syndrome includes inadequate growth before or after birth, facial defects, a small head sometimes like that of a coconut (probably caused by inadequate growth of the brain), mental retardation (taahira ya akili) and abnormal behavioural development. Less commonly, the position and function of the joints are abnormal and heart defects are present.

Babies or developing children of women who drank alcohol during pregnancy may have severe behavioural problems, such as antisocial and attention deficit disorder. These problems can occur even when the baby has no obvious physical birth defects. To my fellow citizens, if there is a doctor who prescribes alcohol of any form- mnazi, dengerua, kimpumu, mataptap and even beer to your wife during pregnancy, claiming that it will boost her hemoglobin (blood pigment-hb), please discredit your doctor.

I have seen children with fetal alcohol syndrome of that nature in our communities, they are not many, but we have them. Documented in South Africa in Cape Province, in one of the suburbs there were 30 children with fetal alcohol syndrome in a special school with severe learning disabilities. Their mothers admitted to taking alcohol and during monitoring their pregnancies they ended up delivering such children.

I cannot describe those children in a format one may understand. Imagine a child born from a family where the couple loved one another and had good time frequenting pubs boozing, especially and in particular during the first three months of pregnancy, that is where organogenesis (organs formation in the mother’s woumb) takes place.

Any insult to the formation like alcohol, cocaine, tobacco which can cross the placenta will go on to harm the unborn child. Use of illicit drugs (madawa ya kulevya) particularly cocaine and opium (bangi) during pregnancy can cause complications during pregnancy and serious problems in the developing fetus and the newborn. For pregnant women, injecting illicit drugs also increase the risk of infections that can affect or be transmitted to the fetus.

These infections include hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases (including AIDS). Also, growth of fetus is more likely to be inadequate, and premature births are more common. These things of use of illicit drugs were thought to happen in advanced or developed countries, but nay we are seeing similar things happening to our communities not in a large scale, but are on the watch as parents and midwives.

Cocaine readily crosses the placenta and affects the fetus. It constricts blood vessels, possibly reducing blood flow (and the oxygen supply) to the fetus. The reduced blood and oxygen supply to the fetus can slow the growth of the fetus, particularly of the bones and the intestine.

Babies are more likely to be small and to have a small head. Rarely, use of cocaine can result in birth defects of the brain, eyes, kidneys and genital organs which may lead in the future to infertility in the child as a grown up adult, sometimes there are children born with missing testicles.

Use of cocaine during pregnancy can also cause complications during pregnancy. Among women who use cocaine throughout pregnancy, about 31 per cent have a preterm delivery and 15% have premature detachment of the placenta (placenta abruption), according to studies done in the US. The chances of a miscarriage are also increased.

About 19 per cent have a baby who did not grow as much as normally expected before birth. If women stop using cocaine after first 3 months of pregnancy, the risks of preterm delivery and premature detachment of the placenta are still increased, but the fetus’s growth will probably be normal. Newborns may have withdrawal symptoms. Their behaviour is also affected.

Newborn interact less with other people. Babies of cocaine users may be hyperactive, tremble uncontrollably and have difficult learning which may continue through age 5 years or even longer. I saw quite a few of cocaine babies while in the UK. The description we gave them was that they were uncudled babies.

Whatever magic one does they will keep on crying, failure of going to sleep and when fed they were throwing out the feeds. To be on the safer side a pregnant ‘mama’ should declare her pregnancy to the midwives earlier on in the first three months to be given the harmless drugs like Iron and folic acid to control and correct her anemia and reduce the development of neuro tube defects to the unborn fetus.

Spina bifida, hydrocephalus (big heads filled with fluid) and growths in the brain and the spinal cord are prevented by folic acid. Please, before your wife and or your spouse gets pregnant consult your doctor and or midwife to safeguard her pregnancy and get correct medication and advice.

Email: amzigetz@yahoo.com

0713 410 531

Author: Dr ALI MZIGE

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