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Whats the big deal about an occasional glass of wine, bottle of beer, or cocktail during pregnancy? If you have ever asked this question, you are not alone! As you research or seek advice about healthy pregnancy practices, you might feel overwhelmed by the contradictory information about alcohol. The St. Louis Arcs Go the Whole 9 program is here to help and would like you to know the facts about alcohol and pregnancy.

The research is clear that alcohol is a teratogen, or a toxic substance to developing fetal tissue. When alcohol is consumed it passes directly into the babys blood stream and can change the way parts of the baby form. The neuro or brain tissue develops through the entire pregnancy and is highly susceptible to permanent changes from alcohol. Therefore, when alcohol is used during pregnancy, underdeveloped portions of the brain are the most likely effect. Changes in brain structures can range from subtle to significant and may not be apparent at birth or even in early childhood. Changes in the brain and body can lead to learning difficulties, struggles with impulsivity and behavior, developmental milestone delays, a variety of health related issues, and more. No one truly knows a safe threshold of alcohol exposure during pregnancy.

Alcohol is alcohol. Serving sizes for different types of alcoholic beverages have been standardized to make their alcohol equivalencies the same. For instance, a standard serving of wine (red or white) is 5 ounces, a standard serving of beer is 12 ounces, and a standard serving of hard liquor is 1.5 ounces. This means that drinking a glass of red wine during pregnancy puts the same amount of alcohol into the body, and poses the same risks to the pregnancy, as a cocktail made with a shot of hard liquor or a bottle of beer. No type of alcohol is known to be safe during pregnancy.

Unfortunately, many people do not know they are pregnant right away and damage may happen before they become aware. Therefore it is important for people to know this information prior to pregnancy. When a pregnancy is planned, alcohol should not be used. If that is not the case and there is a potential of or suspected pregnancy, use of alcohol should stop immediately. There is no safe time during pregnancy to use alcohol.

This September, please join the efforts of the St. Louis Arc and organizations across the world in honoring those living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) and spreading the word to end alcohol exposed pregnancies. September, the 9th month of the year, is fetal alcohol spectrum disorder awareness month. If you would like more information about alcohol and pregnancy or FASDs please visit www.thewhole9.org or call us toll free at 877-946-5364.

Julia Schaffner is the Program Coordinator for Go the Whole 9 and Capable Kids and Families®, and is a knowledgeable source on the subject of prenatal alcohol exposure. If you are interested in learning more about the dangers of prenatal alcohol exposure, please contact Julia at jschaffner@slarc.org.