Alcohol is a substance that can cause birth defects. Fetal exposure to alcohol can result in a lifelong disability. Social, behavioural, physical, attention, and learning difficulties may not be noticed until the child is in school.
When a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol passes through the placenta into the fetus’s bloodstream. The fetus has the same blood alcohol content (BAC) as the mother. The fetus’s liver is not fully formed or functioning and processes alcohol more slowly than the mother’s. The alcohol stays in the unborn baby’s body longer and has more time to affect the normal development of the growing cells.
Alcohol can change the structure of developing cells and interfere with how the cells work together and how they do their job. Alcohol is especially harmful to the cells in the brain and central nervous system. The brain develops through the entire pregnancy and controls basic functions such as breathing, sleeping, and heart rate and higher level functions such as thinking and reasoning.
There is no known safe amount of alcohol while pregnant. Each day without alcohol during pregnancy is healthier for the baby.