Drinking alcohol is frowned upon in pregnancy.
There are women, who do so deliberately, despite the advice not to, but most of the time, the exposure to alcohol is accidental – Mom didn’t know she was pregnant.
She enjoyed a glass of wine with dinner or a night out on the town, with some friends.
Regrettably, exposure to alcohol in the womb, can have long lasting effects.
The exact impact, depends on dosing, timing and duration.
In the worst case scenario, a child exposed to alcohol in the womb, ends up suffering from a condition known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Children diagnosed with the problem, may have facial deformities and can exhibit cognitive, behavioural and motor deficits, due to changes in their brain wiring. These deficits can include learning disabilities, reduced intelligence, mental retardation and anxiety or depression.
That’s a lot of damage……..
Scientists from Manchester University have begun piecing together, how exposure to alcohol in the womb, can do so much damage.
Making the connection
To do this, the team exposed placental cells to different doses of alcohol in a laboratory setting.
Remember the placenta is the organ, tasked with keeping the developing baby supplied with ALL the goodies, necessary to grow big and strong.
To test the effects of alcohol on placentas, the team used placental cell lines, as well as placental cells, kindly donated by Moms, whose pregnancy had to be stopped during the first trimester of pregnancy. Sad face !
The doses of alcohol they used, were similar to the doses that would happen following a drinking spree, the kind where you have a good time, but don’t drink until you are motherless.
The levels they used, equated to 3 or 4 servings of alcohol in an evening.
The placenta can’t hold it’s liquor
The team found, the placental tissue, exposed to these levels of alcohol, could still hold on, but in the presence of alcohol, the cells performed poorly.
The tissue grew terribly slowly.
Too slowly to keep baby supplied with goodies ?
The goodie that seemed most impacted by the slow down, was an amino acid, known as taurine.
Taurine is important
Taurine is one of those chemicals that we know helps shape proper brain development, but it’s not something that get’s too much attention.
It’s rather common.
In fact, it is the most common amino acid in the placenta.
Interestingly, the placenta has a special transporter, the type B transporter, which is responsible for pumping taurine into junior.
So…………Mother Nature values this molecule highly, even if we don’t.
What happens when Mom enjoys a glass of wine ?
The wine effect
A single glass, now and again, probably won’t cause a placental melt down. New one
When the team tested low levels of alcohol, the levels likely to be encountered if you just have a single serving, there was no effect on placental cell growth.
However, even those low doses, cut the supply of taurine slightly.
So it’s probably best to err on the side of caution and avoid ALL alcohol, during your pregnancy.
Diet cold drinks are an easy way cut calories, BUT as you diligently cut those calories in your favourite drink, you inadvertently load up the alcohol levels.
If you find yourself often attracted to that bottle of booze, because the stresses and strains of life have left you feeling flat, try a fishy pick me up.
So when you order that whiskey and lemonade be sure to ask for it in a straight sided glass if you want to avoid spending the night on the floor.