There’s a hot discussion on Twitter right now about whether or not it’s OK to have a glass of wine when you’re pregnant. Our friend @ResourcefulMom decided to “open that can of worms” and we’re glad she did.
Let’s start by stating the facts: There is no known safe amount of alcohol a woman can drink during pregnancy. Period. We say it. ACOG (the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists) says it. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) says it.
Although many women are aware that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects like fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), many do not realize that moderate or even light drinking also may harm a developing baby. An interesting article in TIME last fall referenced a recent study that made several noteworthy points about the varying degrees to which alcohol can affect a baby.
If you’re drinking, so is your baby. When a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol passes through the placenta to her fetus. In the fetus’s immature body, alcohol is broken down much more slowly than in an adult’s body. As a result, Mom may feel fine but the alcohol level of the baby’s blood can be higher and remain elevated longer than the level in the mother’s blood. This sometimes causes the baby to suffer lifelong damage.
Binging is a big problem in this country. About 1 in 30 pregnant women report binge drinking (four or more drinks on any one occasion). Women who binge drink or drink heavily greatly increase the risk of alcohol-related damage to their babies. A 2008 Danish study found that women who binge drink three or more times during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy had a 56 percent greater risk for stillbirth than women who did not binge drink. Another 2008 study found that women who had five or more drinks a week were 70 percent more likely to have a stillborn baby than non-drinking women. Those are horrible numbers!
Yes, but you don’t binge drink. So what if your doc says one glass is OK? Well, what does he mean? How much is in one glass? Have you seen the shapes and sizes of wine glasses lately? Some are small and look like a juice glass, others are enormous. Do you fill it half-full or all the way? If your doc specified, would you actually know what 4 ounces looks like in your glass? The fact of the matter is that in this country where everything is super-sized we’re more than likely knocking back a great deal more than we think.
The March of Dimes recommends that pregnant women do not drink any alcohol, including beer, wine, wine coolers and liquor, throughout their pregnancy and while nursing. And, because we often don’t know when we conceive, women who may be pregnant or those who want to become pregnant also should not drink alcohol. Our point is that if science doesn’t know if something is safe, considering what’s at stake, why would you risk it? It seems best to stick with mocktails and other non-alcoholic beverages.