Alcohol use during pregnancy causes problems with the baby’s brain as it develops, according to a recent study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

The study looked at almost 10,000 children between the ages of 9 and 10, with a follow-up done 1 year later. Children whose mothers drank even small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy had behavior and emotional problems, according to the study. While not always severe, these problems included trouble paying attention, being impulsive, depression and anxiety.

No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes all types of alcohol. Drinking alcohol can also affect the pregnancy itself, causing a possible miscarriage or stillbirth.

When a pregnant mother drinks, a child can be born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). FASD includes a wide range of disabilities that can affect how a child looks, behaves or thinks. For example, a baby with FASD could have an exceptionally small head or facial irregularities. The child may grow up to be shorter or smaller than the average person. Some babies with FASD have difficulty sleeping or feeding.

A child with FASD might have trouble learning because of memory, coordination, attention or speech problems, or difficulties with vision or hearing. Some have difficulty solving problems and making good decisions. Children with FASDs may even have trouble with their heart, kidneys or bones.

The take-home

If you are considering getting pregnant or know you could get pregnant, don’t drink. Drinking alcohol even before you know you are pregnant could affect your baby’s development.

If you need help to stop drinking, contact your healthcare provider. Your provider can refer you for treatment to help you stop drinking and will monitor your pregnancy for possible problems.

You can also contact the following agencies for help: