Can You Have A Glass of Wine?
I consider alcohol one of the top four food- drugs, along with cayenne, chocolate, and caffeine. A drug it is, without question. However, the evidence that prenatal drinking is bad for babies is not entirely satisfactory. The only proper studies have been conducted on heavy drinkers. For these studies, we are grateful. It’s clear that heavy and chronic drinking—and probably binge boozing— during pregnancy poisons the tiny baby’s entire body. Symptoms of the devastating condition called fetal alcohol syndrome include small head and brain, facial abnormalities, organ defects, and neurodevelopmental abnormalities including impaired fine motor skills, abnormal walking, hearing loss, and poor eye- hand coordination.
The problem is dose and timing. How much alcohol is too much? The U.S. government, conservatively, makes no distinction between light, moderate, and heavy drinking. In fact, clinically speaking, there is no definition of “light” or “moderate” drinking in pregnancy. The blanket prohibition against drinking, combined with anecdotal and firsthand evidence from many generations of women, has a noticeable result.
Many women, and even some obstetricians and midwives, ignore it altogether. They think a glass or two of wine during pregnancy is just fine. I was one of them. I was aware of the surgeon general’s warnings, the social pressure not to drink, and the research, and this was my logic: The baby is most susceptible to neural and other birth defects in the first trimester. The brain is particularly vulnerable in the early weeks, when its basic structure is being formed; after this point, it is relatively well protected until middle pregnancy, when there is a massive growth spurt. So I gave up wine for the first three months. Or nearly—I know I had a glass here and there. As it happened, I had almost no desire for wine, which may suggest some innate bodily wisdom.
For many pregnant women, not drinking is not an issue. They wouldn’t dream of picking up a drink, any more than they would get stoned or take up cigarettes. Abstaining altogether is a great decision. Nine dry months seemed like a long time to me. If you like a drink, you might limit yourself to one or two glasses of beer or wine a week, which amounts to light drinking by anyone’s mea sure. And if you do choose to have a drink, there is no need to don a wig and sunglasses before you enjoy it.
NEXT: HOW LONG SHOULD YOU BREASTFEED FOR?