Drinking While Pregnant: What’s Okay?

To drink, or not to drink – A hot topic that many pregnant women are deliberating.

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If you are pregnant or know someone who is, chances are the topic of drinking has come up. In today’s world, this is a highly controversial topic with several different perspectives – even within the same friend groups. While one woman chooses to opt in to an occasional glass of wine, her friend may see this as an unnecessary risk and choose to abstain completely. So, who’s right?

The History of Drinking While Pregnant

A while back, pre-1970’s it was widely accepted and extremely common for women to consume alcohol while pregnant. Nobody batted an eye at a woman who raised her liquor filled glass while resting it on her baby bump between sips. It wasn’t until 1973 that a study conducted at University of Washington discovered a link between physical and mental birth defects and alcohol during pregnancy – more commonly known now as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).

In 1981, after several more studies had been conducted, the US Surgeon General’s official position became that women should eliminate all alcohol use for the entirety of their pregnancy. Knowledge of FAS spread quickly and was instrumental in the societal change of drinking being considered a private moral issue to becoming one in one with child abuse and neglect. There was a period of time where some states even implemented legal consequences – misdemeanors and felonies for child abuse – if a pregnant woman was caught excessively drinking. Today, there are no such legal implications. Due to this new information, alcohol consumption drastically declined from the 80’s and into the 90’s.

Since the early 2000’s, however, we are seeing quite the opposite with more and more women electing to indulge in the occasional drink while they are with child. More interestingly, we are seeing the greatest increase in woman with a Bachelor’s degree, in their mid-30’s to mid-40’s. So, why the increase and what level of consumption is okay?

What We Know

While there’s many different thoughts on this topic, let’s lean into the facts. We know as an absolute truth that:

  • Alcohol can cause complications if trying to conceive a child
  • Drinking any amount of alcohol during the first trimester increases your risk of miscarriage
  • Heavy (more than 9 drinks per week) and binge drinking (more than 5 drinks on a single occasion) while pregnant has been linked to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome – which causes mental and physical defects
  • There is some evidence that shows moderate drinking (one drink per day) can cause harm to baby
  • Alcohol is the leading cause of preventable birth defects and developmental issues in the United States

 

What We Don’t Know

An increasing amount of medical professionals are relaxing there stance and even supporting alcohol during pregnancy, as long as it remains in the “light drinking” category (a single drink 1 – 2 times per week). Studies are frequently conducted across the globe. There have been no signs that light drinking will negatively affect baby’s development.

There is absolutely no medical proof that light drinking causes any type of mental or physical disorders for the baby.

So why do pregnant women receive glares if they were to walk into a bar and order a glass of wine? It has been ingrained in the minds of society that drinking while with child is negative and a form of child abuse, even though science is telling us otherwise. Additionally, we live in a world where, unfortunately, everyone has their opinions (all built from different experiences and sources of knowledge) and likes to use them as ammunition for judgement against each other.

My Decision

Personally, I have elected to not drink during my pregnancy. With all the unknowns, I felt it in my own best interest to abstain from all alcohol. However, I believe that it is a personal decision for each individual to make on their own and will support their right to choose what is best for them.

Alcohol during pregnancy is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to personal decisions around parenting. After baby is born, you are sure to be judged on your decisions around breastfeeding, baby-wearing, screen time, etc…

Parenting is hard enough on its own. Mom’s don’t need the added pressure of society constantly telling them they are doing everything wrong. As I learned with our experiences co-sleeping, sometimes what is widely accepted as the norm, simply doesn’t work for your family. I would like to believe that, for the most part, every Mother has their children’s best interest at heart. They will work as a family to find the best solution for them, not everyone else.

So, just because I have decided that abstaining from alcohol is best for me, it doesn’t mean that it is the right choice for the Mothers around me. I support your actions and trust that you will always make decisions that are right for you and your growing family.

– Mama of Roses –

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