1 July 2011


After reading through Simcha Fisher's wonderful post (and the myriad comments), I was thinking about what pregnant women are told regarding consuming alcohol.  I grew up in the US, and so always heard how consuming alcohol in pregnancy was anathema.

I later moved to England, where the guidelines have changed a few times over the past few years.  I think they changed at least twice just during my pregnancy with Kieran.  They started out with saying you could drink, then that you couldn't at all, and now are back to saying you can in moderation.  I personally think this approach is better, for it strives to give women more information so they can make truly informed decisions.  I feel the "don't drink at all!" approach seems to treat pregnant women like children, assuming they cannot or will not make the decision they feel is best upon receiving all the information.  For example, even when it was reported that light/moderate drinking during pregnancy did not cause problems and may even be beneficial (summaries of studies can be found here), ACOG reiterated that "no amount of alcohol consumption can be considered safe during pregnancy".  Strictly speaking, their statement isn't false since you can't prove a negative, but neither does the available evidence show that light or moderate drinking during pregnancy is harmful.

It's the kind of statement I might make to Charlotte if she ties to touch the oven.  I simply tell her not to do it, and don't get into a discussion about when/how it could be done safely because she isn't yet coordinated enough for that.  However, a pregnant woman is able to look at the facts and make an informed choice, if she's only given the information and/or knows where to look for the information.

Maybe it's just that I'm stubborn and question just about everything, but I always want to know the "why" behind something.  If my health care provider suggests something, I want to know why as well as the pros & cons.  This doesn't mean I disbelieve him, but that I need to understand it a bit more in order to provide informed consent.  When the guidelines changed to advise pregnant women to abstain from alcohol, I appreciated the GP who didn't just give me the official line but gave me the whole story.  So treat me like an adult and give me all the facts, good, bad, and ugly, and then let me make an informed decision.


  1. I remember laughing at friends when I was pregnant with one of the kids. I was drinking a fairly small glass of wine, and they were all freaking out. *rolls eyes* I got so much crap from that!

  2. I just had people offering me drinks. ;) I didn't feel like drinking at all when pregnant with Charlotte, and couldn't anyway b/c of the nausea meds, but had a glass of wine at least once a week with Kieran.

  3. My OB says that since I am healthy, that a glass of wine a night with dinner would do no harm to the child. I'm not a bit drinker normally (only one or two a month) so I've just not changed my normal drinking habits.

    But yeah, in the US I've seen some people get pretty upset at the thought of a pregnant woman even having a sip of alcohol and I've gotten evil looks just for going into a bar.

  4. Yeah, Abby, I've gotten horrified comments from people in the US about drinking when I was pregnant, or even when I'm breastfeeding. I wouldn't have been able to have a drink for the past 4+ years if it weren't allowed during pregnancy & breastfeeding. LOL My GP just said not to drink more than I normally would, which I didn't. With Kieran I was used to having a couple of glasses of wine a week with the other archaeologists (I was doing my MA & first year of PhD at the time). With Charlotte I was just too nauseated to think about it. Now I average about a drink a week, I guess.