During the pregnancy

Alcohol is a teratogen, meaning that it is can cause malformations in the embryo.

Because the placenta does not filter the alcohol found in the mother’s blood, it is also found in the blood of the foetus, but the baby’s liver and kidneys are not developed enough to eliminate it. Alcohol can be harmful to all organs and systems, especially the nervous system. 

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, growth retardation and other birth defects in children. Excessive consumption can also lead to FASD, the range of disabilities that result from foetal exposure to alcohol. FASD manifests mainly as cognitive and behavioral issues and cranial-facial abnormalities, conditions that are irreversible. 

The effect of alcohol consumption on the foetus appears to be related to several factors, including the amount of alcohol ingested, frequency of consumption, stage of fetal development and mother’s health and diet. Scientists agree that there is no consensus on a minimum dose of alcohol that is safe for the foetus, nor does there appear to be a safer period for drinking during pregnancy. Abstinence throughout pregnancy is the safest choice for both mother and child. 

Grossesse et allaitement Ema Ferreira, Chap. 8 Consommation d’alcool 
The Healthy Pregnancy Guide
Educalcool Website (pregnancy and alcohol)

While Breastfeeding

Nursing mothers can drink a glass of alcohol on occasion. They can protect their infants from the adverse effects of alcohol by carefully scheduling their occasional alcohol consumption around breastfeeding. 

Alcohol consumed by the mother passes into her bloodstream and her breast milk. Alcohol leaves the bloodstream and the breast milk approximately 2 to 3 hours after drinking an alcoholic beverage. The time required to eliminate alcohol varies according to the woman's weight. It is best to wait 2 to 3 hours before breastfeeding after drinking one alcoholic beverage, to avoid exposing the infant to alcohol. Giving the baby breast milk that was expressed before alcohol intake is also a good option. 

Excessive or regular intake of alcohol is not recommended. A breastfeeding infant is exposed to a very small amount of the alcohol the mother drinks, but infants detoxify alcohol in their first weeks of life at half the rate of adults. Excessive or regular use of alcohol can affect milk flow in lactating mothers. Consequently, the infant can suffer from an insufficient weight gain and a delay in development. 

For more information on alcohol and breastfeeding, don't hesitate to talk with a health advisor. 

References :
(Québec Pharmacie vol. 55 n° 7 juillet-août 2008)
http://www.inspq.qc.ca (Mieux vivre avec son enfant)
Livre d’Ema Ferreira, consommation d’alcool p. 145-6.

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