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Had too much alcohol consumption and found out to be pregnant. Will it harm fetus?

Mar 2016
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Practicing since : 2011
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Hello, I was wondering about the dangers of alcohol before you find out you're pregnant. I had 3-4 glasses of wine most nights, until I found out about 3 weeks post conception. Now I won't have another drop, guaranteed, but am very worried. Is it true the yolk sac protects the embryo until the placenta takes over? What are the chances I did any harm? For most babies with FAS, the mothers drink throughout pregnancy? Is it true the second half of the first trimester is the most dangerous?
Posted Thu, 24 Oct 2013 in Pregnancy
Answered by Dr. S Patra 51 minutes later
Brief Answer:

Detailed Answer:

Thanks for writing to us on Healthcare Magic.

Heavy drinking or too much alcohol consumption is not good for health. It should be restricted or controlled to avoid ill XXXXXXX effect.

Followings are my comments regarding your queries:

1) Alcohol consumption (more or less) usually does not create any harmful effect to growing embryo before confirmation of pregnancy or getting first missed period because fetal organogenesis starts from 5th week onwards.

It should be completely stopped throughout the pregnancy period and more specifically in the first trimester to avoid FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome).

2) The amnion which is filled with amniotic fluid, will surround and protect the growing embryo. The yolk sac will produce blood and help to nourish the embryo until the placenta takes over that role.

3) Here, growing fetus has low risk for harmful effect as you have stopped drink after confirmation of pregnancy. But you need to confirm through ultrasound scan and other investigation.

First, you need to undergo one Trans Vaginal Ultrasound scan and blood test for beta-hCG at the earliest to check fetus is viable with normal heart beat and properly developed according to gestational age. Above tests give a gross idea (preliminary) of healthy pregnancy and overall fetal well being.

After that, you have to do some other investigation as per your gestational age. They are : 1) Nuchal Translucency & Double marker test (9-13 weeks), 2) TRIPLE or QUADRUPLE test (14-20 weeks), 3) Amniocentesis (15-20 weeks), 4) TIFFA scan ( 18-23 weeksk), 5) Repeated ultrasound scan etc are to be done to eliminate gross and minor fetal anomaly (if any). If you get positive result on all test reports, then you can definitely eliminate possible birth defect.

4) Babies developed with FAS are mostly associated with heavy drinking during pregnancy including first trimester period (most vulnerable).

5) Yes, 5th to 12th week period is most vulnerable period of growing fetus and most birth defect or miscarriage occurs during this time. So, you would careful about this.

Please, do periodic check up to your obstetrician, take healthy protein XXXXXXX diet with vitamin and folic acid supplements, drink more water, avoid heavy work and mental stress, take adequate bed rest and maintain personal hygiene.

Hope, it helps for your information. If you need any clarification, you can freely ask me.

Wish your good health and successful motherhood.

Dr Soumen

For future query, you can directly approach me through
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Had too much alcohol consumption and found out to be pregnant. Will it harm fetus? 1 hour later
Thank you for your reply... It helped me to somewhat set my mind at ease.

To clarify, when (which week) does the placenta take over? Before this, the risk of alcohol use, even heavy alcohol use, hurting the fetus is low? Do you often see patients with this same worry? And everything turns out alright? Have you ever had a patient only using alcohol the first five weeks of pregnancy, before they knew they were pregnant where the child was negatively affected?

Would you say the embryo is nearly 100% protected by the amnion and yolk sac from the alcohol in the mother's bloodstream in this stage?

Organogenesis starts the fifth week of pregnancy- is this the fifth week since LMP, or the fifth week after conception? Some people also say that if alcohol were to hurt the baby before this, it would more likely cause a miscarriage rather than FAS, since the embryo is just a bunch undifferentiated cells before this? Is this true?

Thank you in advance for your reply. I was definitely not expecting this pregnancy but now have completely changed to a healthy diet, no alcohol, no caffeine, and taking folic acid/prenatal vitamins. I started folic acid around week 5, when I found out I was pregnant... Is this soon enough?
Answered by Dr. S Patra 1 hour later
Brief Answer:

Detailed Answer:

Thanks for follow up queries. Followings are my response:

1) Don't be worried much as you have stopped drinking.

a) Placenta takes over upon implantation of the blastocyst into the maternal endometrium. It is approx 7-9 days after ovulation (on 4th week).

b) Yes, light drinking is quite safe until fetal organogenesis starts on 5th week or women confirms her pregnancy on her first missed period.

In few cases, early miscarriage also occurs due to effect of heavy alcohol but if they stop drinking around 4-5 weeks, harmful effect to fetus is quite low.

c) Yea, I have seen many patients worried about that and most of them deliver healthy baby in correspondence to stop drinking after pregnancy confirmed on 4th to 5th week.

d) I have gotten few miscarriage cases when my patients consume alcohol before first 5 weeks. However, I don't get any negative cases when someone stops alcohol completely and carries healthy pregnancy.

2) Embryo is protected through amnion and yolk sac until placenta takes over its function. Harmful effect of growing embryo depends on mother blood alcohol level at that time. But it is quite unpredictable in some cases.

At this stage, fetal harmful effect is only estimated through above mentioned investigations. Just go through them carefully and consult with your OBGYN at the earliest to proceed. TVS scan and blood test for beta-hCG will give an overview of healthy baby.

3) Fifth week is counted from last menstrual period date (LMP). Yes, it is quite right that most harmful effect of alcohol consumption results into miscarriage and nature wants to terminate them. In your case, possibility is quite low.

4) FAS develops when pregnant women drink alcohol throughout their pregnancy period including vulnerable first trimester.

5) It is quite good to start early folic acid & prenatal vitamins which help to develop better fetal nervous system and avoid Neural Tube Defect disorder. It should be continued up to 16 weeks of gestational age.

Hope, I have guided you with my experience. If you don't have any other query, you can close the discussion.

All the best. Good luck. Leave the rest thing on GOD.

Dr Soumen
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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