Consuming alcohol during pregnancy is a very contentious issue.
Many a pregnant woman has consumed a once-off glass of wine in a public place, only to be abused by others.
Yet they were under the impression from their doctor or midwife that it was okay to have the odd glass — even just for a special occasion.
The big problem is that no-one knows what amount of alcohol is safe, if any.
There have been some studies saying that a small amount of alcohol during pregnancy is safe, however they were not long term studies. We don’t know if behavioural or developmental issues will appear later in life.
What we do know is that alcohol kills brain cells, and an unborn baby is developing brain cells at a huge rate. Also, in the first trimester, all of his or her vital organs are forming. Who would want to even be part of a trial to test out the affects of alcohol during pregnancy? No-one would, and no-one should have to.
Alcohol During Pregnancy: The Verdict
Dr. Thomas Hale is considered the foremost leading expert in the field of perinatal pharmacology and the use of medications. He is also the Professor of Pediatrics at Texas Tech University School of Medicine.
He says, “The use of alcohol during pregnancy can cause serious consequences to the fetus, and is one of the leading causes of congenital malformations. Unfortunately, we don't know how much alcohol is needed for the development of fetal alcohol syndrome. Because of this, women are strongly advised to refrain from using any alcohol during pregnancy.”
Some of the features of fetal alcohol syndrome include facial anomalies, small head size, poor growth, mental retardation, and behavioural issues.
Some of you reading this might be in a panic, because you drank alcohol before you realised you were pregnant. This is quite common, so please don’t unnecessarily stress yourself out. You simply can’t change what you didn’t know. It may be of some reassurance to know that the baby's placenta doesn't start to function until around week 10 of pregnancy.
But now, armed with more information, you can make more informed decisions. If you are concerned about excessive alcohol intake before you knew you were pregnant, speak to your doctor or midwife for peace of mind or further investigation.
While some doctors or midwives may suggest that the rare celebratory half glass of wine should be okay, the safest amount of alcohol to drink is none. The safest thing for your growing baby is for you to drink no alcohol.
Some pregnant women may crave an odd glass of wine at the end of the day. Or perhaps they are disappointed that they couldn’t celebrate a special occasion with alcohol. But being pregnant covers such a short space of time in your entire life. It literally flies past. Not drinking alcohol is the best trade off for a healthy baby who isn’t impaired in any way.
Your baby doesn’t get a say in it, but keep in mind that your baby gets just one shot at their life long foundations being formed. As a bonus, when you don't drink during pregnancy, you'll enjoy peace of mind that you didn’t drink any alcohol during pregnancy.
You might like to get yourself acquainted with some yummy mocktails if you would like to celebrate an occasion with a drink.
Struggling With Drinking?
While some women may accidentally drink early in pregnancy because they are unaware of its effects (or that they are pregnant), some women do have a problem with drinking alcohol during pregnancy. High levels of stress, anxiety or trauma can make habits and addictions (of any form) difficult to break.
Until you deal with the underlying issues driving you to drink, the more difficulty you will have with stopping, and the more your health and your baby’s will be at risk.
If you are struggling with any alcohol related issues, it's important that you inform your midwife or obstetrician. They can refer you to seek help from a fantastic counsellor, ideally experienced in pregnancy related issues. It's important to find someone who can help you to work through your issues, so you no longer feel a need to drink to cope. A fantastic self-help resource you can try is Byron Katie's ‘The Work‘.
Either way, if you are struggling with alcohol during pregnancy, please don't feel embarrassed and speak up. Ignore those who do not understand and judge — how they react is a reflection of the person they are. The most important thing is that you get help.