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Dr. C.
Dr. C., Board Certified
Category: OB GYN
Satisfied Customers: 3064
Experience:  30 years of experience and an award-winning educator.
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I just found out that I'm pregnant. Probably about 5 weeks.

Customer Question

I just found out that I'm pregnant. Probably about 5 weeks. Last period was approx july19. This is an unplanned pregnancy. I believe conception happened sometime between the 6-9 of August, which means implantation could have occurred by the 18th?? My cycles are usually about 34 days. That said, I did not know I was pregnant until the 22nd. From the 14-22 we my husband and I were on vacation. We were drinking (4-6 drinks throughout the day/evening), but the last night we had about 4-5 drinks and a few shots. I didn't think I was pregnant and it was vacation! Anyway, I realized I was a day late when I returned home and decided to take a test to ease my nerves….It was POSITIVE 2-3 weeks. I am very very very nervous and prone to high anxiety. I called my ob immediately and she told me not to worry, it happens all the time. However, there is obviously still some risk, which makes me nervous. I have read many different things online since talking with my OB. Some things say that my baby is most likely going to have brain damage because all of its organs from during the time I was vacationing. The others say that the baby wouldn't have gotten any alcohol because it's currently feeding off of the yolk sac and the placenta hasn't fully formed yet and there for alcohol can't pass through. I really don't' know what to believe and i'm very nervous. I would appreciate any insight you can give me.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: OB GYN
Expert:  Dr. C. replied 1 year ago.

Hi, It's Dr. C. Board certified Ob-gyne with 30+ years of experience. I can help you today.

I'm sorry that you're having this worry right now but am glad to hear that you talked to your OB about it. I agree with your OB. This is one of the most common questions we get about the time from conception until a woman realizes she's pregnant.

Until about 10-14 days after conception, there is no connection of the embryo to a womans blood stream. The embryo is free floating with no connection until implantation starts at about 10 days post-conception. Implantation takes about 7 days. So really until 14 days after conception, there is VERY limited connection to the blood stream and any alcohol that may have been ingested.

So try not to worry about this anymore and follow up with any concerns with your OB. She sounds right on track with this.

I hope this was reassuring and helpful. Please reply if I can clarify anything. Good luck with the rest of the pregnancy.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your reply, but if my math is correct implantation happened during the week I was on vacation. Leaving a couple days of drinking and one "binge" drinking episode in the timeframe that the baby would have been out of the free floating stage and starting to get nourishment from me. Roughly 4-5 days until I knew I was pregnant. Is it true that the baby is not living off the placent yet and that the yolk sac would be the main source of nourishment, and not affected by the alcohol? I'm just very nervous about that window after implantation occurred.
Expert:  Dr. C. replied 1 year ago.

Yes, I did realize there is a few days overlap. But the degree of connection to the mothers blood stream during those few days is quite minimal. So I do agree with your doctor about this. It's an extremely common situation. Fetal alcohol syndrome will NOT develop from a situation like you describe. The organs have not started developing yet at that stage and certainly not the nervous system. So congenital abnormalities and brain issues that are found with alcohol in pregnancy aren't a concern with a situation like you describe.

Yes during that time, the blood vessels are in the very early stages of development and there isn't even really a placenta yet. The purpose of the yolk sac is to serve as a "heart" for the embryo until the internal heart inside the embryo develops at around 4-5 weeks after conception.

Anything else?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Did you receive my last email? Can alcohol get to the embryo when the placenta is not yet functioning yet?
Expert:  Dr. C. replied 1 year ago.

Here is a link to a detailed description of the timeline of when maternal alcohol can transfer to the embryo and the expected effects:

http://embryo.asu.edu/pages/developmental-timeline-alcohol-induced-birth-defects

This should be helpful.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
That information doesn't seem consistent with what you said earlier. So two weeks after fertilization would have been last week, but perhaps thursday started week 3. That would me week three is the most vital time in development and the article states that brain damage could be caused. The risk therefore seems higher then I was led to believe by my ob and earlier in this conversation. I think I'm more confused now then when we started. Please clarify. I really don't understand.
Expert:  Dr. C. replied 1 year ago.

The overlap of just a few days into the 3rd conception week really is a minimal time frame for damage. Would you like me to opt out and get a neurologist to help you with the question?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I think that might be helpful. I appreciate the suggestion. Would a neurologist be able to give me concrete percentages and information? Thank you for your help.
Expert:  Dr. C. replied 1 year ago.

They may be able to give you more reassurance that your baby isn't likely to have been impacted by the situation you're describing.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Are you forwarding this conversation to someone that can help?
Expert:  Dr. C. replied 1 year ago.

There is no neurologist on-line right now but if you don't reply to me, your question will go into cue for them when they log-in. Good luck.

Expert:  Dr. C. replied 1 year ago.

I see that no neurologist has been on-line to take your question.

I want to reassure you again that the few days of high alcohol intake very shortly after implantation is VERY VERY unlikely to cause any significant abnormalities. The situation you describe is incredibly common and both your own OB and I are in agreement. If you're feeling uncomfortable about it, it may be best to terminate the pregnancy but the chances are incredibly high that if you take good care of yourself and have a healthy relationship with your partner and the child, all will be well.

Please reply if I can clarify anything else. I wish you the best of luck no matter what.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you. I appreciate you contacting me. I have made an appointment with a specialist to discuss the statistics and available testing as we move forward. I still would like to speak with a neurologist if one does come on line. I feel that they could better satisfy me need for clarity and reassurance. Thank you again.
Expert:  Dr. C. replied 1 year ago.

You're welcome. I think you'll find a conversation with a specialist reassuring. It's highly unlikely that there would be any physical manifestations of alcohol exposure. Also a few days of exposure are not likely do have any measurable impact on behavior, development or psychological health either.

There wouldn't be any testing possible that could rule out issues until the second trimester. A full anatomic survey could do a thorough scan of the entire body and structure of the brain. Behavioral, developmental and psychological impacts could not be detected until after birth. But by far a supportive environment and attention would be expected to have a much greater impact than the alcohol exposure that you describe provided there is no more alcohol exposure for the remainder of the pregnancy.

Anything else I can help with?

Expert:  Dr. C. replied 1 year ago.

I've referred your question to a specific neurologist. If they don't reply, it most likely means that they have nothing to add to what I've already explained.

The reality is that there is no way of really knowing if there may be some subtle impacts of the alcohol intake your described. The key point is that you stopped alcohol intake quickly so exposure was of very short duration at a time that the blood connection to the embryo was just starting to develop.

Much more important is what happens from here on. No more alcohol exposure, staying away from any other toxins, eating well, exercising and maintaining good relationships and support systems will FAR outweigh any potential effects that may have occurred.

Obviously it's up to you to determine how you feel about the unplanned nature of the pregnancy and the exposure that did occur.

I really do hope that this information is reassuring and helpful to you. Let me know if I can clarify anything. I want to be sure you have the most helpful information for your situation.

Expert:  Dr. C. replied 1 year ago.

The neurologist declined to add anything to what I've written.

I hope the service I've provided in trying to help you has been satisfactory. Let me know if I can research anything or add more details. Good luck.

Expert:  Dr. C. replied 1 year ago.

It's Dr. C. checking in on how things are going. I hope you're feeling more reassured.