Surely just a quick tipple will be ok? How many times have you been faced with this dilemma whilst merrily pregnant and attending a friends wedding or party or really any occasion when a toast to good health is required? Do you abstain or do you raise a glass with the others? Should you really step away from that glass of champagne and go for the orange juice option instead? I want you to make your own informed decision and I know juice sounds boring but please read on…
I’ve been in this position during both my pregnancies which were almost 2 decades ago now (I know, I don’t look it ), but the difference was I had been advised not to drink alcohol and so I didn’t. But have times changed? Has advice changed?
In the 1960’s and 70’s apparently “everyone drank”! In A, Guttmacher’s (1962) ‘Pregnancy and Birth: A Book for Expectant Mom’s‘, drinking alcohol was not mentioned as a problem, mind you he did advise that one may consider taking an “Unhurried” visit to the bathroom whilst smoking a cigarette to help relieve pregnancy related constipation! OMG! On talking to my mum who birthed her babies in the hip 70’s, she received no advice on either drinking or smoking or against eating certain foods She remembers a trip to Paris on which she merrily drank wine, smoked and ate a ton of smelly ripe cheeses! I turned out ok, so why should we abstain now?
As always along with technology and the advancements in scientific research, advice is ever changing so lets get back to the modern day...
Today The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) guidelines in the UK advise the consumption of no more than one to two units once or twice a week after the first trimester. But on the flip side the RCM (Royal College of Midwives) says absolutely no to any alcohol. What advice should we then follow and why?
Health experts have recently warned that alcohol use during pregnancy is "prevalent and socially pervasive" in the UK and Ireland (I am not surprised since obviously our mothers and grandmothers drank like fish!), after carrying out a large scale study of almost18,000 women in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. It was found that drinking during pregnancy was commonplace in all four countries and that women across all socio-demographic groups were likely to drink - but those who smoked were up to 50% more likely to consume alcohol while pregnant (Must be those last few constipated readers of Mr Guttmacher’s book, may be handed down from a well meaning Grandmother).The researchers described the widespread consumption of even low levels of alcohol during pregnancy as a "significant public health concern". The findings showed that there is a low adherence to alcohol guidelines in pregnancy in any of the counties involved in the study. Read an abstract of the study here…http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/7/e006323.abstract
It was noted that the majority of women who drink during pregnancy do so at very low levels, but those who drink heavily are putting their unborn baby at risk of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which affects physical and mental development. There are apparently 6,000 babies born every year with this terrible condition. The adverse consequences of heavy drinking during pregnancy on birth outcomes, long-term gross motor function, and social, cognitive, emotional and behavioural outcomes in babies make heavy alcohol consumption in pregnancy a high public health priority.
But what about those that just have the occasional one or two glasses? Well consider this, since most women who consume alcohol do so at lower levels where the babies growth and development effects are less well understood, the widespread consumption of even low levels of alcohol during pregnancy is a significant public health concern. Health experts simply do not know the full effects of any low level of alcohol consumption. It’s an area of study that is difficult to research fully ethically. What would they do; you lot have 1 glass a day, you bunch have 2, you few have 10, and lets do a control group who drink none and see who‘s babies are 'normal' at the end? I don’t think so.
In the studies conclusion they advised that all healthcare professionals should advise pregnant women to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy, while dual targeting of smoking and alcohol consumption should be increased.
An extra nugget of info to add to the think tank; for all of you who are trying to conceive or are newly pregnant were you aware that drinking around conception and during the first three months may also increase the chance of having a miscarriage? So consider putting down that glass.
This is why the RCM (Royal College of Midwives) continues to advise women to abstain from drinking alcohol when pregnant or if trying to conceive. And this is why I now advise you to reconsider raising that glass of champagne to you lips and think of your unborn baby. I did it, and so can you!
Lastly, please don’t just add this to the list of ‘don’ts’ and go all Sophia Loren and lay in bed for almost the entire pregnancy with absolutely no stimuli in order to safeguard your growing baby, surely thats far too extreme...or is it?
￼(When Loren became pregnant her doctor ordered complete bed rest. On December 28, 1968, Hubert Leoni Carlo Ponti, Jr. (known as Cipi), was born. Loren had spent almost the entire pregnancy in bed).