The (alcoholic) pregnancy bubble

By Mary Go

Pregnant Woman with Alcohol

Would you risk it? Photo: Getty Images

There is a pregnant woman sitting by the bar waiting for a table. She is noticeably showing in a flattering dress. People around her are giving her dirty looks and some are looking on with shock. The pregnant lady by the bar is having a glass of wine. Someone call DOCS.

Every time we see a pregnant woman we make sure they aren’t smoking, aren’t drinking, aren’t wearing heels, and that they’re just being the perfect pregnant woman we all imagine they should be. You hear many stories about waiters refusing to serve pregnant women alcohol at restaurants or the questionable looks they receive when ordering a glass of wine. With the constant onslaught of expert recommendations, we, in society, take it upon ourselves to police their pregnancy.

A recent study from Denmark has cast doubt on the cardinal rule that expectant mums should not drink. The study has suggested that pregnant women, drinking up to three medium-sized glasses of wine twice a week, will not harm their unborn babies. Further results from the study indicate that binge drinking while pregnant did not have any discernible effect on a five year olds overall IQ, attention span or self-control.

In the absence of certainty, some obstetricians/gynaecologists like Dr Erik Lai recommend abstinence but quietly tell their pregnant patients that drinking that occasional beer or glass of wine won’t do any harm.

“If women are going to drink while they are pregnant then minimal is better than moderate”

But would mothers really risk it? For Sandra Garrido, who is waiting on her second baby, the decision to drink or not to drink is not up to her.

“We went to a wedding and I thought that, I’m going to allow myself to have just half a glass of wine. Would you believe it, I was seated next to a Doctor and he practically wrestled the glass out of my hand. Between him and my husband I had no chance.”

Sandra may have also felt the wrath of other women. When women are asked what they think when they see a pregnant woman drinking, all comments are negative.

With the constant onslaught of expert recommendations, we, in society, take it upon ourselves to police their pregnancy.

There’s no denying that high amounts of alcohol consumption while pregnant is dangerous. Yes, an estimated 40,000 children per year are affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) which causes poor growth, mental retardation, learning disabilities and other problems. However, this study suggests that there is no direct link between moderate alcohol drinking and birth defects. The studies which explored FASD are based on results from heavy drinkers. Therefore, pregnant women might not be harming their baby nor are they participating in reckless behaviour by enjoying a glass or two a week.

By advising on what pregnant women can eat, drink and do while they’re pregnant, the government and medical professionals place fear in the minds of pregnant women in order to promote the optimal health for the baby. But what’s really needed is an adequate explanation behind the suggestions to encourage actual understanding. The public seem to have also taken a role in advocating for the unborn baby’s health by chastising pregnant women behaving badly.

We all try to justify our judgemental policing based on moral reasons or the recommendations we are fed every year from “baby experts”. But can we all just remind ourselves that we aren’t medical professional and therefore NOT in a position to decide what’s healthy for pregnant women?  Sure, you might think, where’s the harm in reminding pregnant women not to drink alcohol, caffeine, dairy products and to stay away from seafood, deli meat, cheese and wearing heels, cleaning the cat litter, flying on a plane, painting a room or using hair dye, nail polish and tanning lotion? It’s not too much to ask, is it? For pregnant mothers who are already inundated with advice from doctors and their own mothers, your recommendations most certainly are.

There is a pregnant lady by the bar sipping on a glass of wine. Leave her alone! There’s a 45 minute wait for a table. Who wouldn’t want a glass of wine?

One response to “The (alcoholic) pregnancy bubble

  1. Nice article ladies! There is too much struggle for women to have control of their bodies as is, without everyone jumping down their throats every two seconds!

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