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Alcohol's Effect on Pregnant Mothers

By Julie Boehlke ; Updated August 14, 2017

Any type of alcohol consumption during pregnancy can have dire consequences. Alcohol is immediately passed from the pregnant woman’s blood stream to the unborn baby. The alcohol can damage the cells inside of the baby and also affect its growth and overall development. Spinal cord cells and brain cells can also be affected or damaged, causing motor problems, and brain damage in utero. Not only does alcohol take its toll on the unborn baby, it also affects the pregnant mother.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal alcohol syndrome occurs when a woman drinks alcohol excessively during her pregnancy. According to, from Nemours children's hospitals, one in every 750 babies born shows signs of physical and mental birth defects directly related to fetal alcohol syndrome. In the mother, excessive drinking can wear her body down with tiredness, weakness and nausea. There are some clear-cut signs of the syndrome that can be visibly seen at birth, one being the mother being too drunk or weak to get through labor. With the baby, a low birth weight of under 5 pounds, failure to thrive, small head, organ dysfunctions and a low APGAR score are signals. In cases where the mother was a severe alcoholic throughout her pregnancy, the strong odor of alcohol can be smelled as the baby is being born and in the sac and fluids surrounding the baby.

Drinking During Pregnancy

Any type of overuse of alcohol while pregnant can mean serious consequences to the mother. Whether it be binge drinking or drinking hard liquor throughout the pregnancy, it all takes a toll on the mother's body. Because she is eating and drinking for two, most of the alcohol is going directly into the baby's blood stream as well. Getting drunk, passing out, vomiting and increased urine output can drain electrolytes and other nutrients out of the mother's body, preventing the fetus from receiving proper nutrients. When the mother's body is weak and out of energy, the fetus can be affected as well. The results could be a child born with severe developmental delays and hyperactivity disorder.

Weight Gain

One thing that is important with every pregnant mother is that she gain the proper amount of weight to support the fetus. Many women who abuse alcohol while they are pregnant tend to have a low weight themselves. This could be because they drink more and eat less than they should. The result is the fetus receiving improper nutrients. The alcohol in the fetus' blood stream prevents it from maturing properly, and it will strive to make up for it after being born.


Physical effects can also take their toll on the mother when she is pregnant. This could be from accidents resulting from too much drinking. Injuries can occur with a drunken-driving accident where both mother and fetus can be hurt. Falling or running into blunt objects can injure the mother, causing her to have internal injuries that could ultimately affect the fetus.

Miscarriage or Premature Birth

One of the worst things that could happen from alcohol abuse is miscarriage. A miscarriage results when the fetus is no longer able to be supported internally. The baby could be born alive and require proper medical care immediately, or in some instances the baby can also be born deceased, or stillborn. Seeking a support system through Alcoholics Anonymous or an OB/GYN allows the mother to get the help she needs to treat her alcoholism. Having routine pregnancy checkups will assure that the mother is getting the vitamins and health care that she needs to take care of herself and the fetus for the length of the pregnancy. This care can prevent a miscarriage or premature birth.

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