Trying to Have a Baby? Step Away from the Alcohol
Most women wouldn’t even consider drinking while pregnant. The link between birth defects and drinking alcohol during pregnancy is well known and widely publicized. But new research suggests it may be prudent to “just say no” to alcohol in the months prior to conception, too. That’s because investigators at Loyola University have discovered a link between drinking alcohol and a number of birth defects, including one that requires immediate surgical repair after delivery.
Alcohol use in the month prior to conception, or during the first trimester, when some women did not yet know they were pregnant, was linked to a significantly greater risk that an infant would be born with a condition called gastroschisis. It’s a defect in the baby's abdominal wall, and it warrants immediate emergency surgical repair. Most babies recover, but of course there are risks. You may never have heard of this birth defect, but it’s on the rise around the globe. And that has experts worried.
The Loyola study offers new insights into the possible causes of this defect, and suggests a way to dramatically reduce the number of new cases. Think of it as just another recommendation to follow when you’re trying to have a baby. Previous research identified the need for dietary folate to prevent neural tube defects in babies. That’s one of the reasons pregnant women are prescribed prenatal vitamins routinely now. It’s also why women are warned not to drink alcohol during pregnancy. This latest research simply extends that warning to apply to the period immediately before conception.
“A woman can conceive at any point in her cycle, so women should avoid alcohol well in advance of becoming pregnant,” said lead investigator Jean Goodman, MD, in a press release. “We recommend that women begin taking folic acid supplements starting three months prior to conception. This is an ideal time to refrain from alcohol use as well because you are in the mindset of preparing your body for pregnancy.”