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.
here in Europe there is no wording on the bottles but a pictogram looking like a road sign and forbidding pregnant women to drink wines. You’re not alone in the US to live under this general belief that not a single drop of alcohol must be consumed during pregnancy. But there are some physicians who are not so sure about this, like shown in this British study : http://jech.bmj.com/content/early/2010/09/13/jech.2009.103002
[…] evidence that a couple of drinks a week have any impact on the developing child.” Tom Wark starts a new blog series about “Our Little […]
Congratulations, Tom, and buona fortuna, too.
As to the issue at hand, keep this in mind: My mother gave birth successfully to ten babies. Being an Italian from Naples, and married to an Italian from Brooklyn, she had some wine throughout every pregnancy. Not one of the ten of us showed brain damage–at least not in the clinical sense 😉
It’s all about moderation, and I would have challenged the doctor to show me the evidence, which I do when my doctor tries to persuade me to do or not do something for my health that I happen not to agree on. If the evidence is there, I relent; if it isn’t, I tell him he should stop giving advice on flimsy evidence.
I find it interesting that even the most vociferous among us grow mute in the doctor’s office, as of these people are omnipotent seers. They are not. They barely know as much as the regular guy who reads a lot. I learned this when dealing with my own prostate cancer and after having a long conversation with an ex-NIH chief.
Turns out I rarely am quiet in the doctor’s office or elsewhere. However, I was a bit stunned at the time. you see a fish-human that looks like you every day. However, it might become a topic of conversation later on. Thanks so much!!!
Hi – I found this when I was doing some initial research. I thought it was quite interesting. It’s very comprehensive and give you details to make the decision on your own instead of the American abstinence approach (which of course has always worked well in high school sex ed classes). – http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a3542/alcohol-during-pregnancy
Congrats Tom and Kathy. Its always an interesting debate and decision point.
I appreciate the more European approach and school of thought, than the typical American Puritanical one. But then I side with the Euros on many philosophical items.
Alder did a nice article on this earlier this year, may have seen. The comments were also interesting.