June 22, 2012

Drinking during pregnancy

I'm not sure how this will make me sound, but one of the reasons, among many, that I've worried about the day that I get pregnant is the idea of not drinking for 9 months. Or however many months, since I understand it takes some time for most people to realize they're pregnant.

I have other, better reasons for pregnancy concerns but the not drinking definitely is on that list. It's been a big part of my life for about 20 years (yikes!!). I've always said that it's the perfect companion for any situation, helping to celebrate the good times and make easier the bad ones. Most importantly, I just love it. I love a refreshing beer on a hot summer day. Or a big, boozy one on a cold winter day. Or really, just a beer on any given day. So I was plenty excited about the latest news out of Denmark saying that moderate drinking during pregnancy may not affect a child's neurodevelopment.

Not one but five studies came out earlier this week suggesting that women who drink low (defined as one to four drinks per week) to moderate (defined as five to eight weekly drinks) levels of alcohol during early pregnancy may not risk neurological and psychological damage to their child. It's also important to note that in Denmark a drink is defined as 0.4 ounces of pure alcohol whereas in the U.S. an alcoholic drink is defined as 0.6 ounces.

The studies, which followed more than 1,600 pregnant women, looked at the effects alcohol had on children's IQ, attention span, and "executive function" skills- skills that relate to planning, organization and self-control.

 The studies found that low to moderate weekly drinking and binge drinking (defined as five or more drinks in a single setting, which most women said they did only once) had no significant effects on a child's neurological development. Women drank, on average, around 17 weeks (first trimester). There were no differences in IQ test scores or other tests that measure executive function in those children whose mothers drank low to moderately and those children whose mothers didn't drink at all. Interestingly, children whose mothers drank heavily (nine or more weekly drinks) did have lower attention spans when the child reached five years old.

Of course  there are many caveats, and the CDC stands by their recommendation that pregnant women not drink at all. Personally, I know friends who have drank - very moderately - during pregnancy and their children are fine. I'm not sure which side of the line I'll come down on, should the day come I'm pregnant, but I'm not going to lie and say I'm not relieved that there is some news out there that drinking moderately may not be the worst thing ever for an unborn child. If I do decide to have a drink at least I won't feel like a monster.

Where do you fall on this question? Would you drink, or have you, while pregnant?


  1. Just like everything else in life, moderation is key. I respect the fact that many women feel compelled to be 100% alcohol free during their pregnancies. I chose to indulge in a drink on occasion. When I did, it was one glass of wine or one beer with dinner maybe every other week. I have two wonderful healthy children.

  2. Jessie - I agree. I respect that each woman will choose for herself what she finds appropriate, but I'm glad that you were able to enjoy in moderation. Like I said, I know friends who did the same and their kids are perfectly healthy, too. I also know that some of my friends were drinking more than moderately while pregnant before they knew they were pregnant. I think that happens a lot.

  3. Late replying to this (just happened to click on you after following For Pete's Sake on Twitter and scanning other followers to see if I knew anyone else). But yeah moderation is key. My wife and others I know also loved beer and wine. And after the first trimester I believe a beer or two (or glass or wine or two) a few times a week is acceptable. The first 3 months is most trying when you are getting used to this "alien" being in your body, morning sickness, and doing whatever you can to assure growth isn't stunted.

    Of course the problem then is the social stigma involved of having beer or wine out at a restaurant or bar when you're "showing". Best to do in moderation at home to avoid that uncalled for scrutiny from strangers.