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The Six Biggest Pregnancy Myths

In defense of sushi, cheese, hair dye - and common sense.

By L.J. Williamson |

As I was preparing to leave the hospital after the birth of my son, a nurse sat me down and solemnly told me that it was very important, while breastfeeding, to “avoid all spicy foods like Mexican or Indian.”

I imagined a sari-clad wife cradling a newborn and looking on sadly as her Mexican husband cleared their refrigerator of tikka masala, pork vindaloo, and chorizo sausage, restocking it with a twelve-month supply of Swanson’s Hungry Man Meatloaf Dinners.

That can’t be how it works. Once I stopped to examine the numerous warnings given to pregnant and nursing women for cultural bias and scientific rigor, I found out that even the experts don’t always agree, and that the further you travel from the U.S., the further you get from our own particular belief system. For instance, unlike we cautious Americans, in France, pregnant women enjoy wine, in Japan, they order sushi, and in Mexico and India, they do in fact keep right on eating spicy food.

It would be impossible for a pregnant woman to follow every last piece of advice anyway, because so many warnings contradict each other. Don’t drink during pregnancy, unless you’re having Braxton-Hicks contractions – then your midwife might tell you to have a glass of beer or wine to relax them. Eat plenty of vegetables during your pregnancy, but don’t touch that salad – it’s raw, and might have toxoplasmosis. And don’t smoke, unless you’re having severe morning sickness – then some medical marijuana might help. And because Omega-3′s are so important to your baby’s brain, have some salmon – no wait, don’t have any, because all the fish are swimming with mercury. Getting ready to tear out your hair yet? Go ahead, as long as you don’t dye it – hair dye is poisonous, you know. And the list goes on. Trying to sort out all of the advice – both “expert” and folk – is like riding the Tilt-a-Whirl. And pregnant women aren’t supposed to do that either.

I almost burst into sobs when I first learned that sushi – one of my favorite dining pleasures – was on the forbidden list. My doctor consoled me. “Many of my patients tell me they’re avoiding sushi when they’re pregnant, but I never hear anyone say they’re cutting out fast-food hamburgers, and with those you run a comparable risk of e. coli,” says obstetrician Daphna Trites. Yet because sushi is a much more recent addition to American culture than the hamburger, it’s subject to greater suspicion. Plus, sushi is raw.

“There’s no doubt that cooked foods have a lower incidence of food-borne illness than raw foods do; fire is a great invention,” says Dr. Michael Broder, author of The Panic-Free Pregnancy. But while a case of salmonella or e. coli certainly isn’t the way you want to spend your weekend, it won’t endanger your pregnancy. “Most food-borne illness is not likely to affect the baby, and very few infections can be transferred,” Dr. Broder says.

Some of the most dire warnings American women hear are about drinking, which jibes perfectly with our country’s problematic relationship with alcohol. Yet in most European countries, pregnant women aren’t given the hard-and-fast total abstention rules that we are in the U.S. – and they never had prohibition, either. Typically, pregnant women in France, Italy, Germany, and other European countries aren’t advised to eliminate alcohol entirely, but to simply limit consumption to no more than one drink per day.

“In this case, the Europeans are probably righter than we are,” Dr. Broder says. “The research simply hasn’t proven harm from less than two drinks per day.” Yet because there’s a lack of consensus on a “safe” level of alcohol consumption, the message pregnant American women most often hear is that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.

“American women and doctors tend to say if there’s any risk at all, then why take a risk, but that’s based on a misunderstanding of what ‘risk’ is,” says Dr. Broder. “There’s nothing that is totally without risk. For example, even lying in bed isn’t without risk. Obstetricians recommend bedrest freely, but spend too much time lying in bed, and I guarantee you that you’ll wind up with back pain. So the idea of avoiding all risk is nonsensical.”

Of course, “better safe than sorry” is the safest and therefore the most anxiety-reducing strategy for many pregnant women. Yet other women feel that all of the panicky warnings and constraints – especially those that are still the subject of uncertainty and debate – can produce anxieties of their own.

On Slate.com, pregnant cook and food writer Sara Dickerman wrote, “Food, which has always been my great delight in life, has now begun to freak me out.” One poster on BabyCenter.com groused, “So, I can’t have sushi, hot dogs (which I had a lot of when I was craving them about a month ago), wine with Thanksgiving dinner, raw cookie dough, etc., etc., etc. Is it wrong for me to be resenting this kid and all of the things being pregnant is not letting me do?”

And the New York Times, in an article titled “Nine Months of Living Anxiously,” noted that “Thanks to an ever-growing body of scientific research and an old wives’ circuit thriving on the Internet, dozens of foods and activities and procedures, whether their danger is overblown or not, are now believed by some pregnant women to be threatening to fetal health. The result is a kind of Pregnancy Paranoia.”

Although sometimes there is a scientific basis underpinning many of the warnings and wives’ tales (a recent study confirmed a link between high caffeine consumption and miscarriage risk), nowhere do our puritanical, xenophobic and fear-culture roots come out in a greater show of force than when we’re wagging a finger at the mothers of tomorrow. The ideal mother is cautious, self-sacrificing, and renounces such impure indulgences as hair color, booze, and suspiciously exotic foods. For her own good, and for the good of her child, a decent American woman will stay away from the horrors of stinky French cheeses, smelly Oriental fish and sinful Italian Chianti.

Baloney, I say. Pregnant women have enough to cope with when considering all of the changes a new baby will bring into their lives – so why add a load of biased or poorly understood misinformation to her burden? It’s reasonable to take a few precautions, not reasonable to believe everything you hear. Take the advice with a grain of salt – and maybe even a glass of Chianti.

View the Pregnancy Folklore From Around the World chart

Pregnancy Spookers: The Big Six

  • Step away from the soft cheese!

    What? Exposure to listeria bacteria during pregnancy can lead to health problems in the newborn.

    Oh, relax! The term “soft cheeses” doesn’t include things like cream cheese or cottage cheese, and Cheez-Whiz is a-o.k. too (at least listeria-wise). It’s the imported, mold-ripened, raw-milk cheeses, aged less than 60 days, that you have to watch out for, which is why they’ve been banned by the FDA. If a raw-milk cheese has been aged more than 60 days, it carries a very low listeria risk, and if it’s been pasteurized, you’re in good shape. The CDC still warns that safe-siders avoid Brie, blue-veined cheeses and queso fresco. But even these are okay if they’re served hot. Mmm, grilled brie, anyone?

  • F-F-F-F-Fish? Are you crazy? It’s chock full of mercury!

    What? Mercury can lead to developmental delays in the fetus, and high mercury levels have been detected in some, but not all, types of fish.

    Oh, relax! Avoid daily consumption of high-mercury fish like shark, tilefish, and mackerel and you avoid the risk. According to a joint release by the FDA and the EPA, fish like light canned tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish are fine, plus they’re a great source of lean protein.

  • Get away from that litter box! You’ll get toxoplasmosis!

    What? Toxoplasmosis is a serious disease which can cause blindness and brain damage in the unborn infant, as well as stillbirth or preterm labor.

    Oh, relax! If you want a handy ticket out of nine months of litter box duty, stop reading right here. But if the job is yours alone, don’t panic; a study in the July 2000 issue of the British Medical Journal found “No association between toxoplasmosis and having a cat, litter box cleaning or having a cat that hunts.” The real risk factors are eating undercooked lamb, beef or game, contact with soil, and travel outside Europe and North America. So pet your cat, cook your lamb, wear gloves in the garden, and wash your hands after you clean the litter box (like all decent people do anyway).

  • Don’t dye your hair, you vain babyhater!

    What? Hair dyes contain suspected carcinogens.

    Oh, relax! After 1980, manufacturers have reformulated their products to eliminate the most suspect ingredients, and there’s doubt as to whether any of them were actually being absorbed through the scalp to begin with. There has been never been any conclusive scientific link established between hair dye and birth defects.

  • Peanuts? Poisonous!

    What? If you eat peanuts, your baby will have an allergy to them.

    Oh, relax!If you don’t have a family history of these allergies, chances are your child won’t develop one either. Besides, nuts are a good source of protein and unsaturated fats.

  • You’re not actually going to drink that, are you?!

    What? Alcohol exposure leads to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and mental retardation.

    Oh, relax! All of the children described in the original paper on FAS were born to severe, chronic alcoholics. While some researchers argue that any alcohol is bad, others (including Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) say that an infrequent glass of wine with dinner is nothing to worry about. Believe it or not, there’s even some severe, chronic alkies whose pregnancies come out fine (although being a severe, chronic alkie is never advisable). Do the research and come to your own personal decision

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About L.J. Williamson

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L.J. Williamson

L.J. Williamson is a writer from Los Angeles. Her complaints have been printed in The Los Angeles Times, Salon.com, and Utne, to name a few. She lives with her husband, Monkey Man, and their two children, Fifi Bird and Sugar Guy. Her website is ljwilliamson.com.

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65 thoughts on “The Six Biggest Pregnancy Myths

  1. hamsterkid says:

    Have you ever met someone with FAS? Yeah, I didn’t think so. That anyone would even risk the possibility of their child being born unable to live a normal life – unable to understand the basics of everyday life, unable to ever maintain normal relationships, let alone have a family – that really horrifies me. Who cares how small the risk is? There is still a risk, and I suggest that before you add in that daily glass of wine, you spend some time volunteering at your local FAS support centre, then tell me that your glass of whatever is more important to you than your child ever learning how to buy an object from a store.

  2. Guest says:

    Ugh, again with the puritanical spouting.  If you don’t agree with it you don’t agree with it, but let others live the way they choose.  And your FAS child, how many drinks a day did the mother have?? I bet it wasn’t one a week.  I live in a very large metropolitan area, which means I have a higher likelihood to be hit by a bus, or mugged, etc., should I move to the country?  In addition, my child also has the slight risk of a genetically inherited disease, should I have not gotten pregnant???  Ridiculous.  

  3. EatDrinkBeMerry says:

    I drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes (both after I was through my first trimester), consumed caffeine (I did take it down to one tall coffee in the morning, as opposed to my usual 2-3), as well as ate soft cheeses and shellfish. I had absolutely no complications throughout my pregnancy and my beautiful daughter is 100 percent healthy, happy and two to three months ahead on her motor/cognitive development. Moderation with everything is always the key to being healthy. 

  4. mommyknows says:

    If you can’t put alcohol, cat feces,sushi and soft cheese on the back burner for  9 months, you probably don’thave the staying power to be a parent. Get a gold fish, they barely requireany care and as far as I know it’s perfectly safe to drink, smoke and eatanything you please in their presence. They may not appreciate the sushieating, but then again, ‘who cares’ … remember it’s all about YOU!

  5. mamacali says:

    I see maternal consumption “risks” in two categories: 1. It only takes one bad bite to screw things up.2. It will only hurt you if you over do it. In category one are things that might contain listeria and other infections that could give you a miscarriage or cause major defects.  I know they still eat non-pasteurized cheese in France, but its fresher there and it only takes one bad round of cheese.  I’ll pass.  But go ahead and hand me that pasteurized soft cheese. In category two are alcohol, caffeine, and that sort of stuff that you really can consume moderately.  To the first commenter: studies involving pregnant women consuming moderate amounts of alcohol have found ZERO FAS.  As in none, nada, zilch.As far as things like Sushi, in moderation, if it is fresh stuff, I think you’re good, but I would avoid consuming mass quantities of the higher mercury fish in cheap, landlocked locations.

  6. Isines says:

    I’m French. I have two children.Just to tell you that in France too, authorities tell pregnantwomen not to drink one single glass of wine during all their pregnancy.

  7. riskybusiness says:

    Please – the 12:08 pm poster totally misses the point.  Yeah, we can all suffer through pregnancy, we don’t need any of those items (along with a myriad of others also on the caution list – caffeine, fish, peanut butter).  But the poster seems to suggest that somehow we ought to suffer to prove our staying power, without addressing the issue that much of these warnings are based either on myth or on recommendations that vastly exaggerate actual risk.  If you want to go ahead and suffer just for the sake of suffering and proving yourself, be my guest.  But it won’t make you a better parent, and in all probabilty it won’t protect you from having something go wrong with your kid. Most of the common things that go wrong and common illnesses cannot be traced to maternal behavior.  Being paranoid and avoiding anything that has an old wives tale associated with it doesn’t really give you the control you think you have.  As the doc in the article put it, people (such as the first and 12:08 pm poster here) fundamentally misunderstand risk.  Your risk of killing your baby in a car accident is quite likely higher than your risk of killing your baby through consumption of blue cheese – yet I doubt very much you are avoiding driving, riding, or walking in traffic.  Get over your sanctimonious self.   That said, there are clear risk factors with data behind them – smoking, drinking to excess, taking drugs, having unprotected sex with random strangers.  But we’re talking about reasonable, adult behavior in this article.  Having a piece of sushi or a glass of wine once a week ain’t shooting up or getting drunk.

  8. cat5768 says:

    Please consider removing your use of the word Folklore as being synonymous with “myth” or “false.”  Folklore (when the term is understood correctly) is and does consist of very important, and quite real sets of cultural understandings for different groups of people.  It is also a well established and long standing academic field in this country and world wide (see: http://www.afsnet.org/). 

  9. whyriskit says:

    One glass of wine/beer might not hurt an unborn baby, but there are many people who don’t stop at one. As someone with a family history of alcoholism, I don’t think it’s a good idea to tout the idea that “just one” drink of anything alcoholic won’t hurt. Same with cigarettes, sushi, soft cheeses and anything else that might be harmful. Why risk it?  

  10. mcglory13 says:

    Right, whyriskit, women are all secret alcoholics, unable to understand the difference between a glass of wine and a bottle. They are too stupid to understand moderation and caution.  This is what bugs me. The condescension. The infantilization. The idea that women are too dumb to take the time to read the cheese label to see if its pasteurized or not, so we should just say “no. None at all. Suffer and feel noble sister.”  And to the poster who said that anyone who has a glass of wine while pregnant should just get a goldfish cause they’re going to suck as a mom? Guess what? I’m thinking a kid’s better off with someone who takes the time to do research, educates themself, and makes a safe informed decision than one that blindly follows authority. But hey.  

  11. cooper1178 says:

    whyriskit – I would question “many people.”  I think the majority of women in the US completely abstain from alcohol, which for some probably takes considerable will power, I would think that “many” of them would be able to have “just one.”  There’s a difference between harm from just one and the risk of not being able to contain it to one. There are so many things that “might be harmful.”  Why spend your pregnancy, a time that you should be happy and enjoying the life that is growing inside you, worrying about everything flipping thing?  From the research/reading that I’ve done, stress has a lot to do with complications in pregnancy, why add unneeded to worry to that? I’m going to have my diet coke, my cup of coffee, and the occasional glass of wine and not feel bad about it at all.  And mommyknows, I would think more than having the ability to abstain being a measure of “staying power” as a parent, I think the ability to do research and make informed opinions and decisions, even if they are against the “norm”, that are best for your family a better measure.

  12. cooper1178 says:

    mcglory13, you are my hero!!

  13. Joanie says:

    I think it’s strange and obsessive to focus so much on fetal risk… I mean, we don’t tell parents of newborns not to drive to Grandma’s house, right?  We know that there’s an inherent risk in getting in the car, but we understand that all of our actions carry some risk.  I thought that was the writer’s point. When I was pregnant and doing my own research, I was struck by how often I would hear or read, “if there’s even the smallest chance, why risk it?”  I think there are a lot of good reasons to take risk — the very first being that you’re never going to be able to CONTROL your child’s environment; you might as well get used to living in the actual world — the world that has danger around every corner.  Right?   Sure, we don’t want to harm our babies.  We make every reasonable effort to provide a safe environment.  It’s reasonable to eat healthy and nutritious food.  It’s not reasonable to suddenly abstain from a single drop of alcohol.  And frankly,  it’s pretty superstitious to think that if only we don’t eat sushi, nothing bad will ever happen.  I think pregnancy is a great time to start getting over the fear.

  14. hambutt says:

    I liked the tone and intent of the article- doubtful the author isencouraging any pregnant woman to go tie one on.  Seems a rationale, common-sense approach.One bit of clarification on a misconception I often hear about theFrench.  I’m an American living in France, had my first child here andam pregnant with my second.  The French recommend ZERO alcohol duringpregnancy (and in my experience during breast feeding, too).  In fact, the govt. has a poster campaign promoting zeroalcohol and tobacco for pregnant women.  Pregnant women get the same list of things toavoid- shell fish, raw meats, unpasteurized cheeses (which of course in France is huge).  They test MONTHLY for toxoplasmosis, and are less concernedabout one catching it from kitty doo-doo versus from raw veggies.  I’veheard of more American doctors telling their patients that anoccasional glass of red wine is fine, especially after 25 weeks, butI’ve never heard of that in France, even though I came here secretlyhoping to get the green-light-on-wine-with-dinner. Which I did, from the American doctors.

  15. Britalcohol says:

    I looked up the British recommendations (from the organization in the article) and they considered revising their recommendation and changing it to “no alcohol at all” in a 2006 study that reviewed all the current findings linking alcohol use during pregnancy to various outcomes, and they decided that the evidence does not suggest a link between moderate drinking and health problems for the fetus/infant.  They define moderate drinking (and recommend): no more than 1 or 2 units of alcohol twice a week.  So that seems accurate, even if the French have changed their regulations.

  16. Combermere says:

    Actually I have met someone with FAS. And I understand that the FAS he had was caused by his mother being a chronic, severe alcoholic – not by drinking one glass of wine a week with dinner.Pass the pinot grigio!

  17. Zdoggie says:

    When I was pregnant, I was extremely frustrated that my doctor didn’t know the difference between pasturized and unpasturized cheese (she just said “no” to all soft cheeses, including ricotta, cream, and cottage. I also made the mistake of asking if I could have just a sip of my husband’s drink on occasion (we were traveling out of the country, and I really didn’t want to completely miss out), so now it’s in my file that I tried to “bargain about alcohol”. 

  18. nzenzele says:

    As a nurse-midwife, as well as a mother, I can definitely appreciate both sides of the argument here. (although I think the especially sanctimonious posters are way out of line!). I am actually pregnant right now with my second (my first was born 5 years ago in Africa, and I won’t even go into the things I ate when I was pregnant with her…..a perfectly healthy child, btw). But I was surprised by the level of fear induced in women around these issues; and of course, like all parenting issues, people are extremely sensitive.I personally (and professionally) embrace almost all things in moderation – for myself, of course, and for my patients – whom I have taken the time and gotten to know (including a detailed history and physical which includes family history for such things as peanut allergies or alcoholism). Of course not all practitioners (especially high-volume OB/GYN practices) have this luxury, in which case I could see why they might make blanket recommendations about things to avoid – to cover their asses! God forbid a Dr. gives her patient the green light for something ‘risky’ and the woman has a bad outcome – even if it is for some completely different or unknowable reason. That woman could end up forever blaming herself- or her doctor – for whatever it was. Just a thought.

  19. Dwtintx says:

    Zdoggie, I would totally switch doctors!  Unacceptable!

  20. rockin mama says:

    I am a little unnerved…Generalizations like that made in your article give people free reign to loosely interpret what is said in order to justify what they want to do.  If a woman cannot give up alcohol for 9 months (just 1 of the MANY sacrifices a woman will make for her child in his/her lifetime) perhaps she should rethink whether or not having a baby is right for her at that time.  I am a NICU RN and I think statements like “Oh, relax!  All of the children described in the original paper on FAS were born to severe, chronic alcoholics…” are reckless. “No level of drinking alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy.”  See March of Dimes.  Please research before posting information.  From MOD website:What is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)?FAS is one of the most common known causes of mental retardation, and the only cause that is entirely preventable. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that between 1,000 and 6,000 babies in the United States are born yearly with FAS (3).Babies with FAS are abnormally small at birth and usually do not catch up on growth as they get older. They have characteristic facial features, including small eyes, a thin upper lip and smooth skin in place of the normal groove between the nose and upper lip. Their organs, especially the heart, may not form properly. Many babies with FAS also have a brain that is small and abnormally formed, and most have some degree of mental disability. Many have poor coordination, a short attention span and emotional and behavioral problems. The effects of FAS last a lifetime. Even if not mentally retarded, adolescents and adults with FAS have varying degrees of psychological and behavioral problems and often find it difficult to hold down a job and live independently (3)The CDC estimates that about three times the number of babies born with FAS are born with lesser degrees of alcohol-related damage (5). This condition is sometimes referred to as fetal alcohol effects (FAE). These children have some of the physical or mental birth defects associated with FAS. The Institute of Medicine uses more specific diagnostic categories for FAE, referring to the physical birth defects (such as heart defects) as alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD), and to the mental and behavioral abnormalities as alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders (ARND) (6).In general, alcohol-related birth defects (such as heart and facial defects) are more likely to result from drinking during the first trimester. Drinking at any stage of pregnancy can affect the brain as well as growth (5).

  21. Bitsou says:

    Guys, I’m French, I was pregnant three years ago and a former journalist, I can triply assure you that the policy here is NO ALCOHOL!!! At all. It is the same with tobacco. Regarding food, we get recommendations, but since we’re French and love eating, I have not yet met a pregnant lady who told me she could resist sushi, cheese and “charcuterie” (sausage, ham etc)!!!

  22. Spicy Tuna says:

    The point is also, that the info can be misleading.  I’ve been reading a lot on this subject lately because I’m pregnant for the 3rd time and REALLY want sushi.  Basically, I’ve found that if the sushi is frozen and then thawed, any parasites that were in the fish are now dead.  Does anyone ever tell you to check that???  I really don’t think that there are any tuna or salmon within non-freezing distance of my neighborhood, right?  BUT, during my research into this, I read that it’s actually much easier to get Listeria from cold cuts, which is much more dangerous than parasites from sushi.  (About which, the only argument is that they “might fight with your baby for scarce nutrients.”  Can I have sushi with lots of vegetables so both the parasites and the baby get fed?)  Also, which restaurants are the cleanest?  Basically, I could be in a spotlessly clean sushi restaurant and get fussed at for endangering my baby, when a turkey sub served at a not-so-clean deli seems perfectly okay, if I’m following the rules the doctor gave me.  I also usually end up with gestational diabetes – the same people that would dive in front of me to stop me having a glass of wine or a rainbow roll will say, oh, you can have a little cake, can’t you? Also, when you’ve had more than one baby, you start to notice things – with my first, she COULD NOT have solids before 6 months, the  second was told he MUST start at four months.  Same doctor, two whole years apart. I don’t drink or smoke and I would gladly never eat sushi again for my baby, but I’m getting a sneaking suspicion that maybe that’s not actually necessary.   The smartest thing I’ve heard given up in pregnancy: one of  my friends gave up talking on the cellphone while driving.  That probably cuts out  WAY more risk than anything else discussed here.  Also, my oldest is the only 10 year old in her school still in a booster seat. 

  23. EatDrinkBeMerry says:

    Thanks to mcglory13, cooper1178, riskybusiness and Joanie … it’s good to know there are other reasonable people out in the world.I figured my comments would stir the pot and cause a bit of sanctimonious commentary like the posts from mommyknows. Too funny, really, considering our generation’s parents’ doctors never warned them about consuming alcohol, smoking cigarettes, etc., etc., (I’m sure the argument here will be “because they didn’t know any better”), yet we all seem to have turned out just fine (ever seen an episode of “Mad Men” on AMC?). And for those who are reading these posts who think absolutely no alcohol should be consumed during pregnancy, what do you have to say to the doctors who PRESCRIBE it to pregnant women in their last trimester? Are they incompetent doctors putting their patients at risk? Or perhaps our society has become so hypersensitive about EVERYTHING that we cannot trust individuals to think for themselves in a rational manner? 

  24. chattydaddy says:

    I do think there is a middle ground. Many of the prohibitions are simply about reducing the risk of food poisoning, and I think this article does a great job of being rational about that.  Alcohol is a tricky matter, because alcohol is a substance that was not in the blood stream of humans during the great majority of human evolution (having only been discovered in the last 10,000 years or so). As it turns out, our livers do a great job of removing alcohol from our bloodstreams in a matter of hours, but fetuses do not have functioning livers. When did research on this last year, I encountered references to two different european studies that linked light drinking among pregnant women (half glass to whole glass per day, or even 3 or 4 days per week) to an increased incidence of learning disabilities 12 or 14 years later. So in other words, kids may “come out fine,” as people love to say, but its very difficult to quantify whether there are any adverse effects in the longterm.  People make a very reasonable argument that stress, which releases the damaging hormone cortosol, may be worse for the baby … this could be true. It also may turn out after another decade of studies that these worries are misplaced. But I don’t think it’s fair to conclude that anyone who cautions against drinking is fear-mongering or off their rocker.  

  25. CrysBellis says:

    There are substantive scientific links between high mercury consumption and autism, as well as alcohol and learning disabilities (distinguishable from full-blown FAS). Having said that, there is such hysteria on the subject of what is safe for pregnant women. It ceases to be helpful (or even accurate) when it is personal opinion presenting itself as medical fact. One of the most galling articles I read actually stated that even one drink at conception caused a negative impact for the fetus. My own pregnancy was unplanned, and I did drink before I found out I was pregnant. So what good would that article have done me? And why take a profound, and sometimes scary, event in women’s lives and then make them sweat EVERY DETAIL over what they eat or drink or do? I recall reading my OBGYN’s literature on pregnancy safety at around 6 months and realizing that I had probably done at least 20 things on the list. (Keep in mind, this is the same line of b.s. that stated, “Many women are surprised at how comfortable a first-time, undrugged [a.k.a. no pain medicine for you, bad mommy!] birth can be”, so I take it with a grain of salt. Women should simply examine the straight science and decide for themselves. Pregnancy is hard enough without the constant guilt-trips.

  26. ladyv says:

    I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol while pregnant, but things have gotten out of hand when you have women who want to be mothers calling their physicians sobbing because they just found out they’re 7 weeks pregnant and had a few drinks in the weeks before finding out, and think that they now have to consider aborting a wanted child. And it happens. A lot. So much that the Canadian health ministry revised its advisories, in fact.

  27. amandamaren says:

    i ate sushi while i was pregnant- and it was ok’d by my doctor as long as i had eaten at that establishment before and was confident i wouldn’t get food poisoning. of all the things on here, the one i would be most adamant about is hair dye. my partner is a chemist and works for a dye company. the dyes he creates for major hair coloring lines are extremely toxic. he wears a respirator, safe suit, takes hot showers after he leaves the lab, and cringes whenever i touch up my roots.

  28. sushilovinmama says:

    I thought that this was a great article…I ate sushi while pregnant with both of my children, and they are both fine. I only abstained from the occasional glass of wine because even one sip gave me terrible heartburn! We need to calm down and stop being so judgmental here in America. I do not know about France, but I know that Italian women have the occasional glass of wine or beer, and they typically are very cautious in general.

  29. Aurelie says:

    Hello, I’m French and French women never drink alcohol  -including wine- while pregnant! This is such a stupid cliche! Everyone knows alcohol is truly bad for your future new born’s health, and even if you consider us (French people) retarded, you’d better check on what you think before writing such bullshit!

  30. Rina07 says:

    I really appreciate the main point of the article, echoed by several comments:  a paternalistic medical establishment is treating women like we’re too stupid to make well-reasoned, informed decisions about our babies’ and our own health. 
    This galls me because my experience is that most of the medical personnel passing on the kind of advice mentioned in this article, even they themselves don’t truly understand the underlying scientific facts.  This happens not just with pregnancy but across the medical field.  I’ve found that doctors who have actually read and understand the research AND understand my individual situation give much more constructive advice than those who are just parroting the latest bulletin. 

  31. finsplints says:

    Mommyknows-
    Goldfish are actually one of the more challenging freshwater fish to raise for the beginning aquarist. They produce way more ammonia than other typical freshwater fish (think bettas or neons), and people often think they are a success for getting it to survive a year because they don’t know their actual life span can be up to 7 years!
    Considering how much you spout about animal husbandry without sufficient research, you probably shouldn’t have a kid.

  32. jjc28 says:

    This article is ridiculous. When women are pregnant, it is the one time that they sould not be selfish and should take every percaution. SO FOR ALL THE PREGNANT WOMEN OUT THERE, WHICH INCLUDES MYSELF, STOP BEING SELFISH AND PUT YOUR CHILD FIRST. There is no known cause for some birth defects and maybe if the mother’s of these children would have been more strict on theirselves their children would not be suffering. Not to say all children who are born to mothers who live freely will have difficulties, but why take the risks when you are playing with your child’s life.

  33. slidapenguin says:

    Way to read WAY into everything people.

    The author was simply saying that everyone thinks differently. Just simply stated. Use your good judgement as a mother and think. If you don’t want to drink then DON’T.. if you dont want to eat sushi then DONT… simple as that..

    calm down people. Jesus

  34. slidapenguin says:

    Also to finsplints no one ever said that you shouldn’t be careful. But understand that everything has risks. Even the seatbelt of your car. So stop freaking out about the author simply saying that all doctors ALL around the world have a different idea of what is good and what is bad and how is anyone supposed to know. No one ever said that the author is saying put your health before your baby even though common sense wise you MUST because if YOU are not healthy then neither is your baby. So calm down. Also there are birth defects from MANY other things besides CHEESE, and ALCOHOL like whatever is in your family bloodlines, What this person is saying is that YES alcohol is of coarse bad for your baby if you drink it in excess. But common sense tells you you shouldn’t anyway. If you drink a glass of wine on occasion then you should be fine. YES eating too much fish is unhealthy both for the mother AND the baby, because of murcury but who said you should eat it every single moment of everyday? NO ONE. so again… relax. You take risks everytime you get out of bed, you could slip or fall, you take risks getting in the car, you take risks walking down the street. Focus on the whole instead of the tiny box.

    I will defend this author because they neither said “Dont, or Do” they simply said “Weather you do or not, be careful” So stop saying ‘ this is rediculous ‘ when you clearly didn’t even read it.

    That is all…

  35. Nicole Russo says:

    I like this article… maybe the verbiage isn’t perfect, but it puts my mind at a sense of ease… just because this article says such and such doesn’t mean a person is going to do such and such. i am 15 weeks pregnant with my first child and am a natural worrier.. thanks to the internet my mind gets overloaded w/ a lot of dos and don’ts so it makes me even more nervous.. sometimes i wish we were in a world w.o so much technological advancement… knowledge may be power but ignorance may be bliss

  36. Anonymous says:

    There is a book that has been written that is all about pregnancy myths and superstitions called “Hands Off My Belly! The Pregnant Woman’s Survival Guide to Myths Mothers and Moods”. There is an entire chapter written on gender myths. You might be interested in checking it out since it seems like a subject you like. It is for sale on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

  37. commonsensepeople says:

    You eat or drink anything, your baby eats and drinks it as well. That’s a given. If you just have to have your glass of red, remember, your baby is having it as well. Use your heads, people! Would you give your newborn alcohol? I am 15 weeks along and honestly, think perhaps abstaining from soft cheese and peanuts is a little extreme, but I’m not averse to playing it safe either. I eat these foods infrequently. Alcohol is another story. It’s a drug and it affects your brain, and it does nothing to nourish you or your baby. For me it’s a no-brainer. Total abstinence is the smartest way to go, I feel.

  38. Lindsy Hannah says:

    Everyone has a different opinion. Do what you feel is right and don’t let close minded people or even open minded people for that matter cloud up how you personally feel! I have 2 kids and I’m 11 weeks, I did stop drinking and smoking for my pregnancies but with smoking I was advised by my Dr to quit at my pace and on my terms and that quitting cold turkey can cause more stress for us both. I just went with what my body told me. I cut WAY back very quickly and I admit I want one every now and then, but I don’t always do it. I’m sure some of you are FREAKING OUT but I don’t care what anyone thinks because I am working very hard at quitting in MY way. I have also Had 1 glass of wine (OMG sarcasm) and I may have another one at some point. I am treating this pregnancy just like my other 2 and I have 2 amazing HEALTHY young men!! :) lets all remember to think for ourselves!!!!

  39. T says:

    this is a very personal decision, to be talked about between you, your significant other and midwife/doctor. people have become so opinionated that they cant even see that others have opinions of their own. as well as different views, backgrounds and upbringings. I for instance was brought up mostly with my grandmother who is from germany, and is very well known to drink a glass (or bottle) of wine with every meal. people in other countries grow up drinking wine with meals and whatnot. not saying its right or wrong, but if you wouldnt give your 3 month old a glass of wine but you would to your 6 year old at a nice dinner, maybe you should think twice..

  40. Pharma450 says:

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  41. Tilly says:

    Your atrcile perfectly shows what I needed to know, thanks!

  42. Trinity says:

    Articles like this are an example of quick, hlepufl answers.

  43. anne says:

    Despite the idea that pregnant women get “special treatment,” they are actually subject to some of the most rude and judgmental treatment from total strangers. Ask your mom or anyone you know who has ever had a child what the rudest thing anyone ever said to them was while they were pregnant. I bet you’ll get a whole list. And a lot of these rude comments are exactly because of the “one piece of sushi will KILL YOUR BABY!!” type of exaggerated hysteria.

    People who have never been pregnant or given birth suddenly appoint themselves the police of pregnant women everywhere. As if pregnant women are brainless baby-houses who can’t make decisions for themselves. You know what else is not good for babies? Having people stress their mothers out with mean-spirited and judgmental comments like “you’re going to suck as a mother and you’d be better off getting a goldfish.”

    I am so glad you wrote this article to dispel some of the more exaggerated pregnancy myths. Of course everybody should take precautions. Of course, pregnant women should not go “hog wild.” But the hysteria has gone a little too far these days.

  44. Pharmd670 says:

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  45. Anonymous says:

    all i have to say is that i couldn’t agree more. i ate what ever i was hungry for during my pregnancy, although i did make an effort to eat healthy and limit fast food. deli meats, fish, sushi soft cheeses, and jalapenos! i had the occasional beer or glass of wine and probably did many other things that are “forbidden”. i got hundreds of rude comments, but i was also happy and not hungry. and in the end, i got a healthy and happy baby that did not suffer any strange birth defects because i didn’t have a kid a subway microwave my cold cuts before he put them on my sandwich!

  46. soontobe says:

    Did any of you fussing over this article saying zero wine zero fish, nuts, meats… have ultrasounds? Did you know those pose some risk to the baby and although currently not linked to the ultrasound as many as 50% of miscarriages happen with in 3 days of an ultrasound? this information alone is enough to have made me decide to get one only if it is necessary.. and the friend of mine who had 4 in her first 5 months just because she wanted to see it…. i have to say although i feel very sad about her loss n i love her… i would not do the same. also I don’t think i will drink, but i dont a lot anyway and I don’t eat sushi or coldcuts so why start now :p also about FAS there is no proof that 1 glass of wine once or twice a week will harm your baby. Im not saying you should.. just that Doctors spew all these facts, and they are not always correct. just think of all the thinks they tell you about vaccines and medications…. they go nuts when you ask if you are healthy enough to go off a medication… even if you don’t need it anymore and the condition was reversed they seem to think on it for life means just that… if you got healthy and don’t have the condition anymore why still take a med? anyway thats all i have. Do you research examine all sides and then make your decision.

  47. soontobe says:

    *1-3 days after an ultrasound (also im not saying you should not have one just that there is just as much evidence that more than one ultrasound is dangerous as there is that a glass of wine a week is dangerous)

  48. question for rockin mama says:

    rockin mama the first trimester? that would be what the first 3 months? The 3 months in which i had 4 positive home pregnancy tests.. then went to the Dr. to confirm with a blood test that was negative.. then upon taking the word fo the nurse that that home tests where False Negatives did drink 2 weekends in what would have been 10 weeks along… and now found our i am indeed pregnant (with my last prd being april 4) Im an awful person huh… im willing to bet most people that drink in the first 1-3 months don’t know they are pregnant or like me where told By a doctor that they are not.

  49. question for rockin mama says:

    so sorry i should proof read it should say the nurse told me the home test where false positives (which by the way confused me, im not on any hormones, birth control, and ive never had a miscarriage, although now i think i may have, i did ask the nurse if that might be the case and she said ” No, you where not pregnant, the tests you took at home were false positives, that happens sometimes.”)

  50. BunInOven says:

    If you can’t “sacrifice” a few non-critical foods/beverages (e.g. alcohol and fancy raw cheese), sometimes non-nutritious foods or even less than healthy foods, (e.g. nitrate-filled, salt-filled and fat-filled hot dogs and lunch meats), for a relatively short duration (maybe up to a couple of years with gestation and breastfeeding, depending on how you feel about eating certain things when you breastfeed)–for the sake of your CHILD–then maybe you should reconsider motherhood in general.

  51. PracticalMom says:

    Im 27 weeks preg as of right now…and ill be honest the begining of my pregnancy was filled with me being WORRIED about everything and i mean everything! This being my first child i wanted to get it right and avoid alot of mistakes my parents made with me. Dont get me wrong i love my parents but they were 20/21 when they had me Just like my and my husband and they did ALOT wrong. I have done alot more research on things than my mom did but doesnt mean i know it all. Anyways being young and pregnant made me feel like i need to do it right and get all the facts so no one would just think of me as a naive young mom. I already knew the basic things all pregnant women hear dont drink, quit smoking, no more caffeine and it didnt help my sister in law had a baby girl right before and it did EVERYTHING by the book so her watching eyes were on me and it just made me panic at every decision i was stressed out WAY more than i was calm. Before being preg i was a HEAVY smoker and i drank here and there at parties and all that, nothing out of the norm for someone my age. Also i am over weight and drank soda with caffeine like it was water. So i knew i had to kick my habits because there was no moderation at all…for me quitting smoking was good I still cant be around smokers not be cause i think im better than them but because i get that itch to smoke and it wont b just wont i am completely addicted to cigs as they come so for me stopping was my only option. Anyways to make this quick….I gave up all the things i knew i couldnt do in moderation which was hard but the one thing i let slip back in was soda…i dont drink much nothing like i use to but i have a dr.pepper once in a while…the pressure of doing it perfect was so hard though i cried the first time i accidentally drank a soda with caffeine in it. Now its doesnt bug me cause im not perfect that is just the truth. I will always try to do what is best for my baby but MODERATION is key with fast food or soda…smoking an drink ill be honest im gonna stay away from those but that is just me. If you know personally you cant just stop at the one then dont do it, but if u can with confidence know one little glass of wine is all you will have then who am i to judge u?
    I know my limits and i think that makes me a good mom i knew i should cut back on soda period cuz its unhealthy for me and baby so i did i knew smoking and drink was gonna b hard to just have one so i stopped completely. You know you body better than anyone else, you know ur limits even if u can control them you know them. In life moderation is key! So anyone who thinks im selfish or a bad mom, i know for a fact im not. Im going to teach my son moderation with all things tv, food etc.
    My baby cousin has FAS and it breaks my heart but her mother was a drinker…she would have a bottle night sometimes but i love her and she has a good father that take care of her so i know the risk of over doing it and the risk of one time things. Life is meant to be lived not to sit back in your bubble watching it, dont be an idiot and make common sense decision. if you arent capable to do so then avoid the situation. period.

  52. Anonymous says:

    Great job. Loved this. We are treated like idiots during pregnancy. Thank you.

  53. Hannahalaska says:

    I love this! I am a first time mom! About 3 months pregnant, first doctors appointment in 5 hours! I have been freaking out the past 2 weeks about what I can and can’t do! Even make a list of no-nos! Haha! This has helped me so much!

  54. Anonymous says:

    Anything that goes into your body goes into your baby’s body as well. Why wouldn’t you be as careful as possible? Give your little baby the best possible start, don’t sabotage their health from the get-go because you can’t say no to things that you want.

    I’m 21 weeks along right now and yeah, I really wish I could have a sandwich from a deli just about every day (its my biggest craving) but I’m not going to do anything that could hurt my little guy!

  55. be responsable says:

    Nobody said if you eat fish, raw meat, soft cease u going to “die ” , or ur baby is going to be sick at first bite of dangerous foods, or if u drink a beer… every body just try to warrant you this kind of life style is very risky for ur baby’s health! DO U REALLY WANT TO RISK IT???

  56. Ugh says:

    It is ridiculous to say that if you can’t give up sushi or soft cheese or cold cuts than you don’t have what it takes to be a parent. I am pregnant and I refuse to accept and succumb to these myths. I take the risks into consideration and make informed, reasonable decisions concerning what I put into our bodies. Sushi and Salmon are packed with good nutrients.

  57. Salut, Je suis tres Jacques et suis nouveau ici et je trouve ce Website interessant. J’aimerais apporter quelque eclaircissement à l’article original svp.

  58. Lily says:

    Umm… because the vast majority of people (myself included) have been drinking regularly since they reached adulthood and routinely stop after one drink (occasionally two or three on weekends when I was in college… but that was years ago!). I hate doctors who think they have to babysit us adults because they think we’re going to imbibe in alcohol irresponsibly. Sheesh. We have jobs, are in good health, are financially stable, have no criminal history or history of drug abuse. So what if I love the occaiosnal night out with my husband that involves sushi and a small glass of wine? Isn’t it better for my child that I’m happy, relaxed, and that my husband and I are still able to make time for “date night” than it would be if we were both angry, paranoid, and miserable by depriving ourselves of things we love?

  59. Susan Smith says:

    Exactly. See my comment above; wine is not advised in France today. Recommendations from the National College of Gynecologists and Obstetriciens are very clear : no alcohol must be the rule during the entire pregnancy.

  60. FASD mama here says:

    Actually YES, many. In fact I HAVE a child with FAS, and I know hundreds of other families who do too. In my state (Ohio) it is the leading cause of developmental disabilities (as is in the whole US).

    The thing it you don’t hear about the FASD diagnosis, you hear the “autism” or “ADHD” or “Bipolar” diagnosis that comes along with it. People don’t usually want to admit that they may have caused their child’s problems.

  61. joh says:

    Oh, I see, so we should follow unproven old wives’ myths not necessarily to protect our unborn, but as a test to see if we’d be fit as parents. I get it now, parenting (and over-parenting) is actually a cult…

  62. Jacqueline says:

    To the people who post comments like, “then maybe you should reconsider motherhood in general.” Are you suggesting abortion because a woman is asking about the recommendations/contradictions of doctors?
    What about the doctors who prescribe anti nausea medication that may cause miscarriage?

    I liked this article, it was helpful. Use common sense.

  63. Audrey says:

    I’m appaled by this article. In France, we hâve à zéro tolérance for alcohol during pregnancy, the studies show clearly that babies for whom mother drank alcohol during pregnancy hâve mouche higher to be mentally retarded… Don’t generalize a few personal cases.

  64. Melissa says:

    Thank you! I appreciate your refreshingly practical perspective. As a person with a graduate degree in nutrition, I have done my research and critically examined the recommendations for pregnant women. I have come to a similar conclusion. There is way too much judgment and restriction placed on pregnant women. I wish the puritanical finger waggers would give it a rest.

  65. Leigh says:

    As a person with FASD who’s mother drank about 100 days during pregnancy I can very well tell you that i DO suffer from her decision!
    This blog post infuriates me; thew struggles i go through everyday…seem insurmountable some days.
    I have a 5 year old daughter that I cannot care for and due to this I must go to my adoptive parents for help.
    Living with this disability i struggle to maintain my life i have troubles maintain a job i am on Disability for life now.
    I cannot stress enough to the women on this blog post to IGNORE this womans idea’s about alcohol during pregnancy!!! Believe me when i say this; if you love that child and you want a child who doesnt struggle with their day to day life like me! someone who doesnt require reminders to do something as simple as “hey, Leigh.. have you eaten today?” yess thats right. i have to be reminded to eat. and i am sure if oyu are reading this right now you can clearly see i do not know how to write properly. I have had struggles all my life socially and in school Always bullied because i didnt understand social cues and to this day i don’t. i struggle everyday with tasks such as cleaning up after myself i need reminders for every single thing i do… i have to have an alarm go off every hour to remind me of what i have to do next.
    If your husband likes sports welll sucks ot be you! we have a hard time with co-ordination, balance and other sports related necessities because our bodies don’t grow at the proper rates.
    I’m 26 years old and i have the overall mental development of a 13-14 year old.
    Can you imagine for a moment how frustrating it is to be 26 and only FINALLY understand how to multiply?? or how to do simple math questions?
    I have a hard time findig work because i am disorganised and forgetful because my brain is underdeveloped! :D sounds fun right?? :D
    FASD is 100% preventable
    I am 26 years old and i have a daughter who is 5old… i have irreversable brain damage.
    But, it didn’t stop me from being smarter than this blogger to know that NO amount of alcohol is safe!
    Please take what i have said, though it is poorly written and maybe hard to understand at times.
    Please know that i tried my best to be a voice for those who suffer everyday like i do.
    A voice for my daughter too.. who suffers everyday because her mother.. can’t be with her because; her mother isn’t even able to fully care for herself yet.
    Thank you for reading
    Sincerely;
    Leighann Ford

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