Can Alcohol Consumption Cause A Miscarriage?

If you want to know if you can consume alcohol while you are pregnant, the bottom line is simple: Drinking and pregnancy don't mix!

The Facts

While there is some debate regarding the exact threshold of alcohol consumption that can harm your pregnancy or your baby, an abundance of research has determined that regularly consuming five or more alcoholic drinks a week can increase the risk of miscarriage, especially during the first trimester. And while isolated episodes of excess drinking may not cause a miscarriage, mounting evidence shows a direct link between binge drinking and an increased risk of stillbirth.

Doctors have known for a long time that alcohol consumption during pregnancy, especially during the first three months, has toxic effects on the baby. What does this mean? Most early pregnancy losses are caused by abnormalities in the cytoplasm of the egg. The cytopolasm is the material that cushions the egg inside the womb. Toxins such as alcohol directly impair the cytoplasm and hence the quality of the egg, thereby increasing the risk of a miscarriage.

Further, regular or excess drinking of alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk for a disorder known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS is a characterized by mental retardation, growth deficiency, behavioral disturbances, facial abnormalities, and dysfunction of the central nervous system. FAS occurs in 30 to 40 percent of babies born to women who are alcoholics. Additional ill effects caused by alcohol consumed during pregnancy are congenital heart defects and brain anomalies.

Alcohol and the Reproductive System

All women who are trying to get pregnant should be aware of the adverse effects of alcohol on the reproductive system. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are associated with hypothalmic-pituitary-ovarian dysfunction resulting in amenorrhea (absence of menses), anovulation (lack of ovulation), luteal phase defect (abnormal development of the endometrial lining), hyperprolactinemia, and other ovulatory dysfunctions.

Interestingly, research has also found that the risks associated with alcohol consumption during the first trimester decrease during the second and third trimesters. However, given that doctors and researchers have yet to determine a safe level of alcohol consumption during these later stages, the take-home message is clear: If you are pregnant, limit drinking as much as possible!

Alarmingly, recent studies have reported an increase in drinking and smoking among pregnant women, in spite of the clear links between alcohol consumption and miscarriage, stillbirth, FAS and other pregnancy complications. If you drink regularly or if you have a problem with alcohol consumption, be sure to consult with your doctor who can advise you and guide you in managing this problem.

Best Advice

In summary, most doctors recommend abstaining from alcohol altogether throughout pregnancy or at least limiting consumption to one glass of wine per week.

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