The following is a debate between Intern Claire and me. When she wrote her post, Claire didn’t realize it was going to be a debate, but the topic, and the language Claire used, prompted me to share my views, which are, obviously, different than hers.
A shocking study done by the CDC and featured on Jezebel shows that one out of thirteen women are getting buzzed while pregnant. Even more disturbing, one out of five is getting wasted while pregnant!
I know you’re all probably thinking — as was I — that the women doing this are the reckless young girls accidentally getting pregnant and in dysfunctional relationships. However, the statistics showed that it’s the older, employed women who are more likely to drink during their pregnancy.
It’s truly a shame and alarming that this small percentage of women can’t give up their wine and martinis for nine months to take care of one of the most beautiful miracles of life, their baby.
Hey, guess what! I am one of those women who drank while pregnant. I take issue with the language Claire used when she said that 1 in 13 women get “buzzed” while pregnant, though. Neither the article she linked to at Jezebel nor the original source used the word “buzzed,” although in Claire’s defense, Jezebel did title its article: “One Out of Thirteen Pregnant Women Are Boozing It Up,” but that’s sensational journalism for you. The fact is, the CDC found that 1 out of every 13 women it surveyed reported to “drinking” while pregnant, not getting “buzzed.” And that could mean anything, from binge drinking (which is defined as “four or more drinks in about two hours”) to taking a couple sips of a wine.
While all of us, I’m sure, will agree that binge drinking, or even “getting buzzed,” while pregnant is incredibly dangerous and stupid,tons of research suggests that low to moderate prenatal alcohol consumption — defined (not by me) as no more than one drink per day — has no significant effects on a child’s neurological development:
“A large study examined 400,000 women in the U.S., all of whom had consumed alcohol during pregnancy. Not a single case of fetal alcohol syndrome occurred and no adverse effects on children were found when consumption was under 8.5 drinks per week.”
“A review of research studies found that fetal alcohol syndrome only occurs among alcoholics. The evidence is clear that there is no apparent risk to a child when the pregnant woman consumes no more than one drink per day.”
“The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists concluded that “there is no evidence that an occasional drink is harmful. Women who drink heavily throughout pregnancy may have smaller babies with physical and mental handicaps, but women who drink moderately may have babies with no more problems than those women who drink rarely or not at all.”
“The Harvard Women’s Health Watch advises pregnant women that “having more than one alcoholic drink per day puts the fetus at risk for various defects and disabilities.” Thus, it suggests that expectant women should limit themselves to one drink per day. The health publication emphasizes that one drink is 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits or liquor.”
I’m not going to go into the details of what my alcohol intake was while pregnant, but I will say it was closer to a few drinks, total, than the few times a week the cited studies above suggest are OK. I also fall into the category of “college-educated, and older,” a group Claire above was surprised would drink during pregnancy. I am not a delinquent and I am not in a dysfunctional relationship. In fact, I’m very responsible and care very, very much for my baby, both now and while I was pregnant.
So, why did I drink? Why couldn’t I wait nine months to sip my precious wine? I could have, just as people who risk their child’s life by taking them on a plane or on a highway or to Macy’s on Black Friday could forgo those things. But I didn’t believe — nor did my doctors — that the small amount of wine and champagne I enjoyed on a handful of special occasions — past my first trimester — would endanger my unborn baby.
And for me, the psychological and physiological benefits of those few drinks I enjoyed during the course of my pregnancy helped reduce stress and normalize what, for me, often felt like a highly abnormal state of being. And I knew, as I’m sure many of the other “older, college-educated” women who have made similar choices, that the decision to sip some wine while pregnant was just one of endless parenting decisions I’d be making for the rest of my life, all of which would open me to criticism, self-doubt, guilt, and paranoia if I let them. So I didn’t then, and I don’t now. But that isn’t always easy. And it’s something I will have to remind myself over and over, I’m sure, over the course of my parenting journey.
The decisions I made while pregnant — drinking a little wine, not riding a bike, getting prenatal care, flying internationally, working out regularly, taking prenatal vitamins, and binging on three seasons of “Breaking Bad” in two weeks — are not unlike the decisions I made while in labor — I would have gotten an epidural in a heartbeat if there had been time! — and the decisions I have made since my son’s birth — he was circumcised, for example, in a Jewish ceremony — and the decisions I will continue to make as he grows. They are deeply personal, well-thought-out choices — well, the “Breaking Bad” decision wasn’t so much a well-thought-out choice as an involuntary tick I had no control of — and certainly not without controversy. Many people will see the decisions I’ve made and think I’m a terrible mother, just as I might question parenting decisions others have made — matching mom-and-daughter dresses, for one — and know I would do things differently. And that’s OK. That’s just one of the things you deal with when becoming a parent.
Pregnancy provides wonderful lessons in parenthood, and the most important lesson I learned while pregnant is that what matters to me most is not what other people think, but how my decisions sit with me, my immediate family and the people whose advice and insight we’ve sought and trust. So far, they sit just fine.
[via Jezebel and CBSnews]