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Drinking While Pregnant: A case against prenatal alcohol consumption

I’ve been pregnant and/or breastfeeding for over four years now and haven’t had a single drink. When I go to a party or special event, I stick to water or sometimes pop (or fun, fruity drinks if available). Obviously that’s a pretty strict stance, but I stand behind it. To me, it’s not okay to drink alcohol while pregnant.

Some women stand behind studies to support their belief of everything in moderation, but I disagree with the one-drink-a-week-won’t-hurt philosophy. As far as I can tell, there is no known safe quantity of alcohol during pregnancy because every woman and every baby is different. One drink a month could be dangerous for one woman, but one drink a day could be completely safe for another. The problem is there’s no way to tell which side of the spectrum you’re on until it’s too late. It’s a bit unethical to tempt fate just for a little sip, don’t you think?

The obvious and sad result of drinking while pregnant is fetal alcohol syndrome. Babies born to mothers who drink do not grow or develop to their potential. Some even have physical defects. So why take a chance? Deciding to drink or not to drink isn’t even a question of the health benefits outweighing the risk; there is no benefit from alcohol. Most so-called “benefits” actually come from the grapes used to make the wine (think reseveratrol) and can be obtained from sources that are non-alcoholic, such as 100% grape juice or supplements. In other words, drinking alcohol isn’t like choosing to take a diabetes or anti-epileptic medication, something that could clearly make a difference to the health of your pregnancy, despite the known risks.

Alcohol during pregnancy is an indulgence, not a necessity. How many people really drink for the health benefits anyway? Most people I know drink because it’s social, it’s relaxing, it tastes good, or they just like to get drunk. And there’s no question that getting drunk while pregnant is unsafe. As for the other reasons – aren’t there better ways to relax, enjoy a social occasion, or something else on the menu that tastes good to drink? I enjoy various herbal teas after a long day, for example. And once I even asked a bartender to mix me a virgin Tom Collins (something like pineapple juice, sour mix, and club soda), and it was good! There are plenty of ways to celebrate or enjoy a “drink” without needing alcohol. And really, if you need alcohol to unwind, something’s wrong. There are plenty of options to get relief during pregnancy, so choosing to drink and put your baby in harm’s way is unjustifiable.

I just don’t understand how anything (that isn’t necessary to health) could be so important that it isn’t possible to just give it up for 9 months. I crave deli sandwiches while pregnant, but I don’t eat them (unless I prepare the meat and sandwiches at home; I don’t buy deli meat). I try to minimize junk food (and most of what I do indulge in I prepare at home so there’s some redeeming value). Nine months is such a short time in your life – isn’t your baby’s health worth the temporary sacrifice?

Parenthood is all about selflessness, so you may as well get used to it while pregnant. After my son was born, I gave up my intense love for cheese so that I could breastfeed him; he was dairy-sensitive. The bottom line is: I would never choose myself over my baby : especially when my baby doesn’t have a choice. When you’re pregnant, your baby lives off of your body, like it or not, so anything you feed yourself, you’re feeding him or her as well. Drinking while pregnant? Not worth it.

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