Drinking and Pregnancy: A Revelation
This is the first in a series of posts on “Our Little Project”
In the 1980s and early 1990s, there was great concern in the American wine industry over a phenomenon referred to a “Neo- Prohibitionism” or “Neo- Temperance”. It seemed to many that a variety of forces were combining to demonize the consumption of alcohol and alcohol itself. Bad for business!
One of the regular topics of discussion at that time was the degree to which consumption of alcohol, even in extreme moderation, might impact a developing fetus in the womb. In fact the moral crusade against drinking alcohol during pregnancy (and a now acknowledged over-hyped concern about drinking during pregnancy) led he U.S. to become the only country in the world that required wording placed on all alcohol containers warning against drinking alcohol during pregnancy. We still are the only country that requires this. A very good study of the “moral panic” surrounding alcohol and pregnancy is Elizabeth Armstrong and Ernst Abel’s paper “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: The Origins of a Moral Panic”.
I mention this outbreak of over-concern of drinking during pregnancy that occurred some twenty to thirty years ago because my wife, Kathy, and I had the occasion to confront the issue yesterday.
As I sat in the chair in the examination room looking with shock, amazement and excitement at some very fuzzy but miraculous black and white photos, my Kathy looked at her OB-GYN and ask, “Can I drink wine?”
Our doctor very quickly and sternly said, “No, not while you’re pregnant!”
When I heard this reply, it took a moment for the doctor’s meaning to register with me. (Those grainy photos of our half human, half fish offspring are pretty compelling.) But I did look up finally at the doctor, then at my wife…and said nothing. Though, I couldn’t help but wonder how it is that new mothers, having just gone through nine months of pretty weird and unusual circumstance and without any recourse to a drink during that time, don’t all of a sudden start celebrating with gusto, and with just about any kind of drink they can find, once the experience is over.
I’m sure I’ll have an answer to that question in a little more than six months from now.
Despite the Neo-Prohibitionist movement having largely gone away, one thing that remains is women generally abstain altogether from drinking while pregnant, despite there being no evidence that a couple of drinks a week have any impact on the developing child. Kathy has decided to not to drink for the next few months.
I, on the other hand, probably will. The odds are very good that our fishy-looking human swimming about inside Kathy’s belly right now is going to arrive right on time. That realization is definitely cause to celebrate.