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Drinking During Pregnancy: Another Study Says A Drink or Two a Week is Fine. Will You Go For It?

By Rebecca Odes |

It seems that yet another study has come out saying that light drinking during pregnancy is safe for developing fetuses. The study monitored children of women who drank 1-2 units of alcohol throughout pregnancy and reported that the children of these light drinkers were not negatively affected by this amount of alcohol consumption.  The data seems rather familiar, so it may be that it’s just the publication of something that was reported on earlier. But the news seems to be spreading farther and wider with every study supporting the safety of light drinking during pregnancy.

Today, Lisa Belkin reported on the study in her Motherlode Blog at The New York Times.  She asked her readers whether the new findings would change their attitude about alcohol and pregnancy.

Here’s what they said….

“This will not change my opinion. I feel like giving up drinking for 9 months is really not that big of a deal. Sure, I missed having a beer with my husband and friends but I didn’t miss it enough to do it. If you miss it that much, you might have a problem.”

“I feel like we already knew this. It is nice to see it in an actual peer-reviewed journal, though.”

“Giving up two signs of adulthood during pregnancy is training for giving up your adult life when you have kids, to get you used to not doing what you want.”

“Studies like this only serve to give excuses to women who have problems with alcohol, to help them deceive themselves that it’s OK to have a “glass” of wine “every now and then”, or to drink “lightly”. Well, for people with alcohol problems, defining what constitutes a “glass” might surprise non-problem drinkers. So might the definition of “lightly.”"

“When I was in medical school, we were taught by the OB / Gyn’s that even though studies showed clearly that only truly heavy drinking resulted in fetal problems, we were to tell all women not to drink anything at all, because those few women with drinking problems would think their heavy drinking was “normal,” and therefore would not refrain unless told to drink none at all. The likely fact that they would not refrain no matter what a doctor told them was not addressed.”

(see more responses  on the Motherlode Blog)

I think if I’d read something like this during pregnancy, I might have been a bit more inclined to have more than the few sips I allowed myself every few weeks. But this is obviously a controversial subject. Do you think this study will change how people feel about alcohol and pregnancy, or is the idea that it’s risky firmly set in everyone’s heads?

photo: Kyle May/flickr

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About Rebecca Odes


Rebecca Odes

Rebecca Odes is a writer, artist and mother. She was inspired to write her blog, From The Hips, during her first pregnancy when she discovered every pregnancy book she came across made her feel anxious or irritated. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

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13 thoughts on “Drinking During Pregnancy: Another Study Says A Drink or Two a Week is Fine. Will You Go For It?

  1. laura says:

    I hate reading stuff like this because the fact that doctors more or less knew this but don’t share it reinforces the notion that pregnant women need to be treated like children, they can’t make responsible decisions on their own and need to have all the power put in the hands of their doctors. That said, as much as I miss wine and beer, I just can’t bring myself to drink. A college friend’s adopted sister struggled with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and ultimately lost her life to suicide at the age of 21. I feel like I need to abstain out of respect for her and her family. Would I judge other pregnant women for drinking in moderation, no. I also wouldn’t judge a pregnant woman for eating sushi (they seem to be doing OK in Japan) or drinking a coke. If anything, I’d be jealous that I can’t do the same, guilt-free.

  2. Lucky says:

    @Laura- Amen sista! While the commenter on motherload seems to think you must have a problem if you can’t just abstain, I felt it was nessisary to NOT change my life and make the point if even to myself that I won’t be treated like a child by a patriarchal sosciety that thinks I’m to fragile to make descisions for myself. It’s not about needing a drink so badly, it’s about not being bullied by holier-than-thou types in the world.

  3. tim says:

    That’s a nice post but I don’t think its right to drink alcohol that much.

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  4. em says:

    Well, I’m 28 weeks pregnant and last night celebrated my anniversary by going out for high end sushi with my husband during our vacation to California (which is known for great sushi). Oh yeah, I had a (gasp!) glass of wine with my sushi as well.
    I guess I’m already a terrible mother.

    I think what we’re all really missing in this debate is that happiness should not be at the bottom of our list of priorities. Our society tells us that there’s something unimportant or even a little dirty about happiness, especially as it relates to parenthood.
    No, I’m not an alcoholic. I didn’t NEED wine and sushi, but I really wanted it and it was an extremely memorable and euphoric experience. Does that count for nothing? Don’t you think baby benefits from mommy’s happiness?

    Also, given the ongoing recalls of everyday foods like eggs, spinach, etc, I feel MUCH more confident that what I ate last night is clean, safe and even good for me. While I have limited my fish consumption throughout my pregnancy so as to avoid too much mercury, I find it less offensive to eat sushi during pregnancy than I do all the factory farmed crap and fast food that most American pregnant women eat.

    Pregnancy should not equal fear, but that’s exactly what we’ve done. From the moment of conception, through delivery (and into parenthood) our society has told women to be afraid of everything and it doesn’t seem to be benefiting us. Our infant mortality rates are still unconscionable, SIDS still happens, autism exists. Being in a constant state of fear has not made life better for our society.

    I, for one, refuse to be a hostage to fear.

  5. Blue says:

    I think a few sips of wine is probably less likely to cause harm than some of the other things we are told to avoid: caffeine, unpasteurized cheese, deli meat, etc.

    Although I agree that pregnant women are easily judged/infantilized by all of these expectations, I can’t help but think of some of the stories I’ve heard…the rare pregnant woman who dies of listeria after eating deli meat, or the kid who is born very preemie after a bout of raw-fish related food poisoning…to me, a few sips of wine seem like no problem in comparison

    Women who have drinking problems and are pregnant, that’s another story. They need real long-term help.

  6. MTB says:

    How many of you would give alcohol to your toddler? Alcohol passes through the placenta to the developing baby …not much difference in my opinion.

  7. Kari says:

    I’m 24 weeks pregnant. I have had communion wine and a couple sips of a summer ale with this pregnancy. For me, this is a non-issue because I don’t want to drink while pregnant. I don’t miss it, crave it, and it does not taste good right now. I feel horrible for the women who cannot stop drinking during pregnancy. I wish we could all do “everything just right” during our pregnancies, but we all know it just doesn’t happen. Pregnant women can be addicted to drugs or alochol, in domestic violent relationships, not have enough money for proper nutrition, access to prenatal care, etc. It seems to be a fine line between “light” and “moderate” consumption and considering the study reported that children exposed to light consumption tested the same or better to no consumption, but children exposed to moderate consumption fared worse, it is too risky to me. How would I know where the line is? To the women that will only have one or two drinks a week and stick with it, more power to you. To the women who have more drinks a week or are untreated alcoholics, God be with you and lets pray that I’m not paying for services for your child with FAS.

  8. am. says:

    outside of america a glass of wine has always been considered ok when pregnant. I live over seas and while on holiday in the US was scolded by a near stranger for eating a pineapple from the side of my husbands drink (the very tip was touching the barley alcoholic drink) I have only had a half a glass of wine once during my pregnancy and wouldnt want to risk anything more, but i also feel that should a choice as long as you have control of yourself

  9. amanda more says: (<coauthored) Franks fetal alcohol syndrome is either binge drinking or close to every day babies. You can't do math? Your Mom may have been part of cocktail generation. Two cigarettes a day are proven safe- can't get lung cancer. But a mental effect is notoriously hard to measure. The French have a huge level of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome occurance.(now they are recently measuring it. Read the studies. Ubiquitous as it is alcohol is toxic to babies and other living things.

  10. Jennie Tidbitz says:

    I think its ok, but not spoken of often, since most American are so sue happy, doctors dont want to risk saying anything at all. Just say none at all and stay safe from lawsuits.

  11. JT says:

    What about the pregnant mother who spends hours on or around a pollution filled highway for hours at a time for work? Bus drivers, crossing guards, people who work on the streets; all are exposed to cancer causing fumes that can harm developing fetuses. I’m more concerned about these issues than a mother-to-be’s occasional drink of wine.

  12. Kelly says:

    I should NOT feel guilty for having a glass of wine every once in awhile when most of these sanctimonious mothers (I have a few in mind) eat fast food, drink soda, do not workout, etc. Soda is much more harmful in my opinion, cafienne free or not. I’ll stick to my occasional fermented grape juice.

  13. WB says:

    I am really tired of hearing, “You wouldn’t give your baby or toddler alcohol in a bottle would you?” No, I wouldn’t give a baby a prenatatal vitamin or an adult dose of tylenol either and I take both of those while pregnant!!!!

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