By Roger W. Harms, M.D.

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Additional info for Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

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Once in your bloodstream, alcohol passes through the placenta to your baby. Sustained drinking during pregnancy increases your risk of miscarriage and fetal death. It also can cause permanent damage to your baby. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most serious problem caused by excessive alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Each year, between 1,300 and 8,000 babies are born in the United States with the condition. FAS can cause such birth defects as facial deformities, heart problems, low birth weight and mental retardation.

Educational and career opportunities are often cited as reasons that American women are waiting longer to become moms. In fact, from 1970 to 2000, the percentage of women having completed four or more years of college nearly tripled. During the same period, women’s participation in the American workforce increased by nearly 40 percent. The years from ages 20 to 34 are still the most “popular” for childbearing, accounting for about three-fourths of all births. That hasn’t changed much in 30 years, although the percentage of women becoming new moms in 36 PART 1: Pregnancy, childbirth and your newborn their early 20s has decreased, and the percentage of women becoming new moms in their early 30s has increased.

One study found a 40 percent decline in the probability of a man impregnating his partner from ages 35 to 40. What causes reduced fertility in men? In order for your partner’s sperm to fertilize your egg, it must mature properly, survive intercourse and the passage through your reproductive tract, and remain viable until your egg is ready. It then must penetrate the firm capsule (zona pellucida) of the egg, fertilize the egg and provide normal genetic material for the early development of your baby.

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