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Is wine safer than liquor during pregnancy?

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Alcohol and pregnancy go together like oil and water; you can try to make them mix permanently, but it’s never going to happen. There’s no tried and true amount of alcohol that is pregnancy “safe” or an appropriate time, only on Sundays or after the third trimester, to drink when you’re expecting. The fact is, there’s no way to tell how much alcohol the baby absorbs and how it affects him or her.

Thirty years of research still hasn’t pinpointed the where’s and why’s of alcohol consumption and fetal risk. But one point is clear; according to “Volume and Type of Alcohol During Early Pregnancy and the Risk of Miscarriage” in Substance Use and Misuse “women who drank four or more drinks a week” had a “significant increased risk of miscarriage”. That’s as easy a drink a night or a long weekend. Even more interesting is the type of alcohol which may cause the most damage. “Women who drank only spirits had more than a two-fold increased risk of miscarriage compared to women who abstained”. That’s right; liquor may cause more damage than any other kind of alcohol.

Liquor, compared to wine, malt liquor or beer, has more alcohol per volume and may do more damage to the fetus more quickly than the other options. Liquor has 40 percent alcohol in every 1.5 ounces, wine has 12 percent alcohol per 5 ounces, malt liquor has 7 percent alcohol per 8 ounces and beer has 5 percent alcohol per 12 ounces. A high alcohol percentage makes your liver work harder to remove the ethanol and does more damage over a long period of time.

Drinking alcohol heavily daily, weekly or yearly can cause long-term damage to the body. The heart, skin, eyes, frankly all organs are affected by heavy drinking. The liver becomes fat rather than muscle making it work slower when detoxifying the body, building proteins and secreting bile (which helps to breakdown fats in the small intestine). The brain too is damaged from heavy drinking; destroying nerves and neurons which help transmit information to the body from the brain.

A fetus who is newly forming would be affected by heavy drinking and more specifically a drink that contains a high percentage of alcohol. Because babies are so small, it takes only a small amount of alcohol to do permanent damage. The best advice is to drink no alcohol what-so-ever when pregnant. Is it better to drink wine, with a smaller alcohol percentage, rather than beer or a cocktail when pregnant? There is no real way to tell. There are no studies with pregnant women and alcohol because no one is willing to damage their baby in the name of science.

Remember absence makes the heart grow fonder! Celebrate after the baby is born with a glass of your favorite. Children are so life changing you might need a sip to steady yourself for the next new chapter!

Substance Use and Misuse. 2014 May 8.
Volume and Type of Alcohol During Early Pregnancy and the Risk of Miscarriage.
Avalos LA1, Roberts SC, Kaskutas LA, Block G, Li DK.

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