Drinking Alcohol When Pregnant… Safe or Stupid?

I still remember six years ago, sitting in my first prenatal appointment with my spouse, listening to my OBGYN explain the risk factors of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.  As she explained it, no company or university would ever be able actually test on pregnant women to determine if there was a safe amount of alcohol to drink.  Therefore, all she could tell us was that there was no safe limit.  Then she leaned forward and said in hushed tones, “It probably won’t hurt if you have a glass of wine every now and again.”

I also remember six years ago, sitting in that first appointment with my OBGYN, listening to my spouse loudly demand that I “absolutely under no circumstances” ever have a drink of alcohol during my pregnancy or while I was breastfeeding.

To drink or not to drink was no big deal.  I’ve never been much of a drinker.  Sure, I’ll always make sure that I have a couple bottles of wine when we entertain.  And I can’t go to Giants game without the requisite hot dog and cold beer.  But I also don’t miss it (well, during some of these crazy Bay Area heat waves, I have wished for a frozen mixed drink served in a fancy glass with a tiny umbrella).  Not drinking alcohol during pregnancy seemed to be a no-brainer.  Sort of like not smoking or wearing four-inch stilettos.  Some things are not supposed to be indulged whilst pregnant.

Imagine my shock when British researchers found that moderate drinking during pregnancy may actually be fine, according to a new study published last week in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.  The study of more than 11,500 children found that children whose mothers had a couple drinks per week during pregnancy tested in the same range on behavioral and cognitive tests than kids whose mothers abstained completely.  The scientists did not actually give pregnant mothers alcohol, but rather surveyed mothers and then assessed their kids at ages 9 months, 3 and 5 years.

Still, I’m not rushing out and popping open a bottle of champagne over the news. 

I never thought that having a single glass of wine would suddenly make my kid a dunce instead of the brilliant genius he’d obviously be if his mother steered clear of the bottle.  But I also don’t understand why this study is necessary.  There are lots of foods that women should avoid while pregnant.  We’re told to avoid tuna, sushi, lunch meat, and unpasteurized cheese; eat only lean proteins, and limit processed sugar or caffeine.

What’s the big deal about giving up a glass of wine?

Besides, a drink or two a week during pregnancy may not affect your developing unborn child but you’re still going to have to face the Court of Public Opinion filled people who will throw stones at women who dare to enjoy a libation while sporting a pregnant belly.  While the research may claim that it’s safe, I’m not entirely convinced that drinking booze while pregnant isn’t stupid.

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  1. October 15, 2010
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