October 27th, 2014
While it has been shown that moderate amounts of alcohol consumption in adults can have certain health benefits, when consumed in excessive amounts, alcohol can have multiple harmful effects. These harmful effects are multiplied to an unborn fetus when alcohol is consumed while pregnant. Because the alcohol travels through and becomes trapped in the fluid surrounding the fetus (the amniotic fluid), it prolongs the exposure time to the fetus. This prolonged exposure time can cause changes in parts of the DNA within cells, thus leading to a slue of complications and disorders.
Studies on the effects of alcohol on stem cells has shown that alcohol can potentially have an important negative impact on mechanisms of gene regulatory systems which eventually lead and result in proper embryonic development. It has also been hinted that alcohol shuts off certain genes within segments of chromosomes by a process called “methylation”. These genes can have vital responsibilities, which in their absence, can lead to severe abnormalities or even fetal loss.
It should be noted however, that due to ethical considerations, the research conducted to obtain many of these correlations and findings have been conducted on non-human cells. Mouse embryonic stem cells are commonly used to conduct research in this field. It has been noted that the similarity between mouse embryonic cells and human cells are similar, but should be taken into consideration when comparing results.
The effects of alcohol consumption on human development in uterus have long been studied. With numerous documented consequential effects, it has been universally accepted that moderate amounts of alcohol consumption during pregnancy (regardless of trimester) can have deleterious effects on the fetus. Although it can be an enjoyable accompaniment to an already great time, the effects of alcohol consumption while pregnant cannot be overlooked. If you or someone you know is thinking about becoming pregnant or is pregnant, have them consult with a doctor regarding when and why to stop consuming alcohol. Nine months of abstinence can lead to a lifetime of health and happiness for your child.