Are there any other problems from maternal smoking for the child?
Yes. If you are a smoker, your child is at increased risk of suffering from asthma and "glue ear", a leading cause of deafness in children. Moreover, if you are planning to breastfeed, you may find it quite problematic because smoking interferes with milk production.
Will stopping smoking during pregnancy have any adverse effect on the baby?
Absolutely none. It may be very difficult to achieve and sustain on your part but, once achieved, all you have done to yourself and your baby is good.
Does alcohol consumption during pregnancy have any adverse effects?
Yes. The extent of the negative effect on the baby depends on the amount consumed during the course of the pregnancy.
Does this mean there is a degree of drinking in pregnancy that is considered safe?
Yes (and no). An average consumption of fifteen units of alcohol per week has not been shown to have any adverse effect. This message has to be given with a note of caution. Since biological phenomena hardly ever obey strict rules, it is probably wiser to stick below this level. Any person who averages fifteen units per week is certainly not dependent and cutting down should be quite easy.
What are the adverse effects of alcohol in pregnancy?
A moderately heavy drinker (18 to 20 units per week) runs the risk of ending up with a low birth-weight baby. Smaller babies are more likely to suffer illness in the immediate post-delivery period.
A heavy drinker imbibing more than twenty units of alcohol per week runs a far more serious risk. This is in the form of what is known as "fetal alcohol syndrome". This syndrome is characterized by fetal growth restriction (worse than that seen in moderate drinking), neurological abnormalities, developmental delay, intellectual impairment and facial deformities.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
How common is fetal alcohol syndrome?
Statistics for fetal acohol syndrome differ from country to country.
In the UK, no national figures are available but in France, 33 (thirty three) babies are born with this very serious condition out of every 10,000 live births. The figure is 17 (seventeen) per 10,000 in Sweden.
There is no strict consistency in the susceptibility to the condition and other factors such as smoking, drug abuse and nutritional deficiencies may play a part. It is, however, true that with alcohol intake in excess of eight units per day (fifty-six units per week), the risk is very high indeed.
Do all such heavy acohol drinkers end up with babies with fetal alcohol syndrome?
No. In fact, only about one in three such mothers deliver babies with the condition. This reinforces the assumption that the condition is due to a number of factors, though heavy alcohol intake is crucial
What is a unit of alcohol?
A unit of alcohol is equivalent to 10 grams of alcohol. This is found in:
one glass of wine
half a pint of beer, lager or cider
one measure of a "short", if you are drinking spirits.
Is fetal alcohol syndrome immediately recognisable at birth?
Not always, especially if the history of alcohol abuse is not known to the health professionals looking after the mother and the facial deformities are not immediately obvious. In such a case, the warning may come late with the manifestations of neurological abnormalities. This may be in the form of infant irritability and hyperactivity, later still.
Intellectual impairment will be manifest in due course.