Effect of alcohol use on pregnancy still serious public health concern

08Aug 2020
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Effect of alcohol use on pregnancy still serious public health concern

Alcohol also known as ethanol has a number of effects on health. Short-term effects of alcohol consumption include intoxication and dehydration.

Long-term effects of alcohol consumption include changes in the metabolism of the liver and brain and alcoholism. Alcohol intoxication affects the brain, causing slurred speech, clumsiness, and delayed reflexes. Alcohol stimulates insulin production, which speeds up glucose metabolism and can result in low blood sugar, causing irritability and possibly death for diabetics.

There is an increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder for teenagers while their brain is still developing. Adolescents who drink have a higher probability of injury including death.

Even light and moderate alcohol consumption increases cancer risk in individuals. A 2014 World Health Organisation report found that harmful alcohol consumption caused about 3.3 million deaths annually worldwide. Negative efforts are related to the amount consumed with no safe lower limit seen. Some nations including Tanzania have introduced alcohol packaging warning messages that inform consumers about alcohol and cancer, as well as foetal alcohol syndrome.

Alcohol in the mother's blood passes to the baby through the umbilical cord. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities.

Drinking alcohol at any time during pregnancy can cause serious health problems for your baby. Alcohol includes wine, wine coolers, beer and liquor.

When you drink alcohol during pregnancy, the alcohol in your blood quickly passes through the placenta and the umbilical cord to your baby. The placenta grows in your uterus (womb) and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. Drinking any amount of alcohol at any time during pregnancy can harm your baby’s developing brain and other organs. No amount of alcohol has been proven safe at any time during pregnancy.

There’s no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol can cause problems for your baby any time during pregnancy, even before you know that you’re pregnant. You may be pregnant and not know for 4 to 6 weeks. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases your baby's chances of having these problems: Premature birth. This is when your baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies may have serious health problems at birth and later in life.  Brain damage and problems with growth and development Birth defects, like heart defects, hearing problems or vision problems. Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. Birth defects change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. They can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops, or in how the body works.

Despite the detrimental effects of alcohol on adolescent health, high rates of alcohol use are reported among Tanzanian youth. Alcohol outlet density and advertising may contribute to adolescent drinking in urban Tanzania. Findings have revealed a high density of alcohol-selling outlets and outdoor advertisements. The abundance of alcohol-related cues, including their close proximity to places where youth congregate, may facilitate and increase adolescent alcohol use in Tanzania. We therefore recommend several changes to the alcohol environment to reduce adolescent drinking. Structural interventions that reduce adolescents' access and exposure to alcohol are needed in Tanzania.

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