WASHINGTON - When a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy she risks giving birth to a child with mental and physical defects called fetal alcohol syndrome, a US-based doctor told “Hello VOA” on Thursday.
“Biblical, ancient Greek and ancient Roman sources offer accounts of prohibitions against maternal alcohol use, implying a historical awareness of links between maternal alcohol use and negative child outcomes,” said Dr. Taing Tek Hong, a Florida-based physician.
Fetal alcohol syndrome can be diagnosed from “growth deficiency,” with a baby’s height or weight in the bottom 10th percentile, from checking facial features, from damage to the central nervous system, or from exposure to prenatal alcohol, he said.
“Alcohol crosses the placenta barrier and can stunt fetal growth or weight, create distinctive facial stigmata, or damage neurons and brain structures, which can result in psychological or behavioral problems and causes other physical damage,” he said.
Other conditions include heart murmur, altered palmar crease patterns, small distal phalanges, small kidneys, strabismus, decreased visual acuity and others.
“An analysis of seven medical research studies involving over 130,000 pregnancies found that pregnant women who consume approximately 18 drinks per week have a 32 to 33 percent chance of having a baby with FAS,” he said.
“One to two drinks per week during pregnancy does not appear to cause a risk to the fetus,” he said. However, “the only certain way to prevent FAS is to simply avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy.”
The US Surgeon General “recommends that women abstain from alcohol use while pregnant or while planning pregnancy,” he said. “Folic acid is also recommended.” There are other ways to promote a healthy child, Taing Tek Hong said.
“During pregnancy, a woman should have a regular medical check up to detect and treat hypertension and diabetes,” he said. “She should eat a balanced diet and take multivitamins containing primarily folic acid and iron and other vitamins and minerals.