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Pregnancy and Childbirth: The answers

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Effects of excessive alcohol intake for the mother

Excessive alcohol consumption has all the dangers to the mother in pregnancy as in the non-pregnant state. It may weaken her general health, and may have adverse effects on the liver, pancreas and the brain. Some of the effects may be serious and life-threatening.


Weaning off alcohol during pregnancy

This is certainly a good idea and attempts should be made to achieve this. However, since this may be difficult for somebody already consuming alcohol in excess; admission into hospital may be necessary. It may even be necessary to use medication to control withdrawal symptoms.


The acute detoxification period may last for anything between three and seven days. The period immediately after should be used to identify and start correcting nutritional deficiencies. In most cases, vitamin supplements are required. This should always be done under professional guidance.


The role of "Antabuse®" in weaning a pregnant mother off alcohol

This is a drug whose real name is disulfiram. It is not used in pregnancy as its safety to the fetus cannot be guaranteed.


Formulating own quitting strategy for a mother who uses alcohol in excess

Attempts to give up alcohol when one conceives are noble. However, for somebody who is already alcohol dependent, doing that without professional help will be misguided and unwise.


Withdrawal symptoms can be devastating and may endanger life and limb. Epilepsy-like grand mal seizures may occur within a day of stopping the alcohol. If you are alcohol-dependent, withdrawal should be done in hospital or in a dedicated detoxification centre.


After delivery

If the mother has made a successful withdrawal during her pregnancy, then the achievement should be reinforced in the postnatal period. Counseling support and self-help measures will be instituted and maintained, in a bid to prevent her drifting back into dependency.


Excess alcohol consumption and breast-feeding

This is controversial. Alcohol is secreted freely in breast-milk and the breast-fed baby gets as much alcohol as the mother. By virtue of this fact alone, it may be wise to consider not to breast-feed.                                                                                                   

An additional disincentive is the fact that alcohol has an inhibitory effect on milk production, which could lead to the baby not getting enough and therefore being irritable, which in turn leads the mother to more alcohol abuse (her crutch in any sort of crisis), a classic vicious circle.

If a mother who drinks heavily has been unable to quit, then it is arguably best for her and her baby that she does not breast-feed.