My mom has a lot of books saved from over the years. This weekend we found one book on pregnancy from 1965, and Michael noticed this little tidbit:
"Many women ask about cigarettes and alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol is safe in limited quantities; a glass or two of wine at dinner or a cocktail will do no harm. No one knows for sure whether or not tobacco is harmful to the fetus. It has been shown that women who smoke give birth to somewhat smaller babies. In making a decision about tobacco, the mother should also consider her own health and the increased danger, due to smoking, of lung and heart disease."
Funnily enough, my mom had a newer edition of the same book that was published in 1979. So we looked up the same section in the newer book, thinking that it would surely be updated with better information. This is what we found:
"Alcohol is perfectly safe in small quantities. Recent research suggests dangers to the fetus from heavy drinking. An occasional glass or two of wine, or a cocktail, will do no harm. Smoking should be avoided. It is not known whether smoking actually harms the fetus, but women who smoke often give birth to smaller babies. There is also evidence that babies whose mothers smoke have more respiratory diseases in early infancy."
Of course, today we have the benefit of years of research and study. And everyone knows that smoking and alcohol during pregnancy are no-nos. But I was wondering just how much more we know now beyond "respiratory diseases in early infancy." So I looked a couple of things up.
Smoking can lead to such things as an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy (these pregnancies must be aborted), increased risk of developing placental complications, increased risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, and severe vaginal bleeding. Also seriously slow fetal growth, low birth weight, and increased risk of preterm delivery (by about 30 percent). It also increases the likelihood of certain birth defects, including a cleft lip and/or cleft palate.
"Babies who weigh less than 5 1/2 pounds at birth face an increased risk of serious health problems during the newborn period, chronic disabilities (such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and learning problems), and even death. Babies of mothers who smoke are twice as likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) as babies of nonsmokers. Children who are exposed to cigarette smoke before birth also may be at increased risk of lasting problems, including asthma, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems."
What about the harmless cocktail each evening?
Current research has shown that drinking increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. As little as one drink a day can raise the odds for low birth weight and raise your child's risk for problems with learning, speech, attention span, language, and hyperactivity.
"The most severe result of alcohol use is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), a lifelong condition characterized by poor growth (in the womb, after birth, or both), abnormal facial features, and damage to the central nervous system. Babies with FAS may also have abnormally small heads and brains, as well as heart, spine, and other anatomical defects. The central nervous system damage may include mental retardation, delays in physical development, vision and hearing problems, and a variety of behavioral problems. Frequent drinking greatly increases the risk that your baby will suffer from FAS. But babies whose moms drink less can also develop this syndrome. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fetal exposure to alcohol is one of the main preventable causes of birth defects and developmental problems in this country."
Sometimes it's hard to argue that ignorance is bliss.