CASE STUDY: Beth in Manchester
“My dad used to call me Me Me Me. He didn’t called me Beth for a long time. There was a reason why, of course. For years I was a selfish drinker, a binge drinker, a raging alcoholic. All I ever really thought about was myself – where could I get my next drink; like a drug addict who’s always focused on getting their next fix. But it wasn’t only me who was affected by my behaviour, I’ve come to realise.”
Too late now
Beth – a 31-year-old dental nurse from Cumbria – drank so heavily and regularly that she was even drunk on the afternoon that she gave birth (in 2003), meaning her baby daughter Alicia was born with alcohol poisoning (and a heart defect), and almost died.
“The nurses and doctors on the maternity ward explained to my parents that Alicia was nearly 20 times over the alcohol limit for drinking driving, if you see what I mean. I am horrified to admit that my boyfriend and I actually found that funny. Looking back, we were playing Russian Roulette with our unborn baby’s health. I was even part of a police investigation at one point – for endangering my child’s life. I got a suspended sentence, thank God.”
Alcoholism and pregnancy risks – some key facts:
A single bottle of wine per week can treble the risk of miscarriage. Think about that. Alcohol abuse during pregnancy can also cause:
- Damage to your baby’s brain cells. Your baby can also be born with an abnormally small brain within which is a faulty arrangement of brain cells and connective tissue
- Deformity to your baby’s face, such as: a short upturned nose, low set ears, skin webbing between the eyes, and a sunken nasal bridge
- Stunted organ, limb and brain growth, which can cause movement, co-ordination and mobility problems, as well as learning difficulties and behavioural problems in later life
- Severe mental retardation (a problem that is often compounded by central nervous system handicaps)
Like thousands of other women across the country, Beth was predominantly unaware of all these potential health problems and conditions, something which she now shamefully admits. She does make one valid point, however, when refusing to accept the entire blame for Alicia’s problems:
“As Alicia’s mother, of course everyone points the finger of blame at me, when it comes to her problems. But it takes two to make a baby, doesn’t it? In the years prior to me becoming a mum, my ex-partner, Dan, drank like a fish. Although it is impossible to prove, one of the nurses mentioned a study that suggested a possible link between a history of heavy alcohol consumption in fathers-to-be, and a very rare heart defect in newborns. So, maybe Alicia’s problems aren’t entirely my fault after all.”
Typically, babies born to women who have drunk heavily throughout their pregnancy are born (prematurely) with:
- Severe alcohol poisoning (meaning they are at serious risk of being poisoned to death)
- An extremely weak heartbeat
- A risk of restricted growth (as well as all the other aforementioned health problems and conditions), due to alcohol having passed from the mother’s blood through the placenta
These babies will almost certainly spend time in an intensive care incubator.
Mums-to-be out there – what you ABSOLUTELY need to know
Giving up the booze is rarely easy; most GPs and other medical professionals understand that. If living an alcohol-free life during pregnancy simply isn’t going to happen, you should at least be aware of Government advice for pregnant women:
If you cannot resist alcohol while expecting your baby, then the advice (for pregnant women) from the Department of Health is to drink no more than four units of alcohol (a unit equals a glass of wine or a pint of beer) a week.
To optimise the chance of your baby being born without one or several of the aforementioned birth defects and deformities, a pregnancy that is completely alcohol-free is highly recommended.
A final note of caution
Like Beth, mothers of babies born with alcoholic poisoning could quickly become under investigation by the British Police. The individual under investigation will be questioned by specially trained officers, and could face charges of endangering an unborn child’s life.