Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mothers Drinking After Childbirth Dangerous

by Cara Harshman
Monday, October 22, 2007

The results of a new medical study may make Wisconsin mothers think twice before they pick up another drink.

The study “Correlates of Postpartum Alcohol Use,” reveals 12 percent of postpartum women reported “at risk” binge-drinking habits. According to the study, binge drinking is considered consuming an average of seven drinks per week or having four or more drinks at one time.

The study warns women against postpartum drinking as it could have detrimental effects on the life of a woman’s next child, if she chooses to have one. If a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy, her baby could be at risk of fetal alcohol syndrome.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, FAS is characterized by abnormal facial features and growth in addition to problems with the central nervous system.

University of Wisconsin medical professors Michael Fleming and Tanya Jagodzinski conducted a survey involving about 8,700 recent mothers throughout Wisconsin, questioning their alcohol consumption, tobacco use and other habits before, during and after pregnancy.

Fleming and Jagodzinski’s study links postpartum alcohol use to a greater chance of a woman’s subsequent child having FAS, but the syndrome is still rare among children in Wisconsin.

“In Wisconsin, one in a thousand children has a problem with fetal alcohol syndrome,” Fleming said. “It can be manifested in learning disabilities and ADHD.”

The purpose of the study, Fleming added, was to experiment and raise awareness about an important public health issue.

“If a couple is trying to get pregnant, having sex without condoms, but the woman does not know if she is pregnant or not, she probably shouldn’t drink that much or not drink at all,” Fleming said.

While Fleming said, “Drinking is part of our culture,” he called for women to take greater responsibility for their actions if they decide to have children.

“Seventy percent of the population drinks, but the stuff on State Street, with the free drinks and two-for one-drink specials — they definitely promote alcohol,” Fleming said. “I think some of those things are inappropriate, especially for women of childbearing age.”

UW human development and family studies professor Lauren Papp, who teaches courses focusing on family stress and coping, said postpartum women might drink to cope with the stress of having a child.

“Among couples, having a child really changes the structure of the family,” Papp said. “There is a lot of stress and reorganization, especially for the first child.”

Constant attentiveness is necessary when caring for an infant, Papp said, and a mother’s drinking will compromise her ability to care for and raise the child.

“The child could feel not responded to, and over time this could lead to a bad mother-child relationship,” Papp said. “If she is using alcohol to cope regularly, she might not be as emotionally aware or sensitive to the needs of the child.”

Fleming said he hopes the study’s results will be publicized over the radio or public service campaigns so everyone is informed about the dangers of postpartum alcohol use.

“[If] you want to give your baby the best chance to be normal, don’t drink,” Fleming said.

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