Expectant mothers have been advised to stay away from beer
and other alcoholic drinks. This is because its potential
negative impact on growing foetus can lead to birth defects.
According to Prof Tola Atinmo, a nutritionist at the University of Ibadan, it is better for a
woman, especially expectant mothers, to abstain from
alcohol before conception, and
throughout pregnancy. This, he explained, is because an embryo’s liver cannot process alcohol like an adult’s.
“If a mother to be’s blood alcohol level is over the limit, so is that of her foetus and a foetus’s liver isn’t prepared (as a mother is) to process that much alcohol. The bottom line is that abstinence is best,” said Prof Atinmo.
He warned that pregnant women who take alcohol
risk giving birth to a child with a fetal alcohol spectrum
disorder (FASD). The
conditions, which range from mild to severe, include speech and language delays, learning
disabilities, abnormal facial features, and small head size, among many other problems.
Experts say that women with certain risk factors should be
careful about alcohol while pregnant. You probably should
not drink, for example, if you
have liver disease, a history of addiction, or are on any medications that may
conflict with alcohol, such as anti depressants.
And if you’re concerned that
you are drinking too much and feel that you cannot stop
during your pregnancy or at
any other time, talk with your doctor. He or she can refer you
for counseling or treatment, he said.
There are still many
unanswered questions about the risks of drinking moderate amounts of alcohol during
pregnancy, including how much it takes to cause birth defects and why some babies
seem to be affected and others are not.
We know that women who drink heavily during pregnancy have an increased risk of
having a child with Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
Babies with FAS have a constellation of severe lifelong problems:
They’re born smaller, often continue to grow poorly, and
have physical abnormalities and learning and behavior problems.
But full-blown FAS are only the extreme end of the spectrum
of what can happen when you drink alcohol during
A broader category
known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)
affects many children whose mothers drank various
amounts while pregnant.
These children don’t have all of the physical features of FAS but do have learning and behavior problems.
Prof Atinmo said even researchers don’t know enough about the potential
effects of drinking alcohol at particular times during
pregnancy to be able to say rhat any time is really safe. It’s
also difficult to predict the impact of drinking on any
given pregnancy because some women have higher
levels of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol.
“If a pregnant woman with low levels of this enzyme
drinks, her baby may be more susceptible to harm because
the alcohol may circulate in her
body for a longer period of time,” he added. On a general note, Prof Atinmo said a good percentage of
women drink beer.
However, many do not know their
limitations. It is said that about 75% of women over estimate the calorie content of beer. They believe it is beer
that gave their husbands the
abdominal fat ‘beer belly’, not knowing that it is their over-
feeding of the man.
Nutritionists have maintained that Beer does not contain fat
and, in fact, has lesser calories than wine.
Prof Atinmo said: “A good number of women who take
beer also drink it at social event. Some prefer it as a shandy with sweeter drinks
like soft drinks or juices. Because of the resultant sweeter taste, they tend to
drink more. In a society such as ours, there are various
perceptions about the widely consumed white foamy liquid
beer. While some of the perception might have dated back decades it doesn’t
necessarily make them true. A recent studies from around the world are presenting arguments to counter the perceptions.
“For instance, to what extent is beer is responsible for the
‘beer belly’ condition in some men?
Research has shown that beer alone cannot be responsible for this occurrence. ‘Beer belly’ is caused by too many calories in an individual’s diet (from over- eating, sugary food and
beverages etc) and a sedentary lifestyle. More calories are
ingested than what is burned. The excess is stored in the body as fat. Fat is stored more
in the belly by men, hence the prevalence of ‘beer belly’ in men.”
He said this explained why women are not associated with the ‘beer belly’; “it is
purely a consequence of fat stored. Women sure do consume the alcoholic beverage almost as much as
some men. Research and studies have shown that beer
is as suitable for women as much as it is for men. Like so
many other alcoholic options, beer if consumed responsibly and in moderation, all the
health benefits can be gained.