The last week has been incredibly eye opening. Over 200 of you took my survey about pregnancy and drinking and not only answered the questions, but came back with some incredibly insightful feedback. I included many of your comments (arguing both sides) below. I also reached out to doctors, nutritionists, acupuncturists, and some of my favorite mamas to get a full picture of how people are thinking and talking about it these days. Sadly, out of the three doctors I asked to participate, two said they didn’t feel comfortable being quoted on this subject. Many of my friends said the same thing. I guess that goes to show just how controversial it can be.
While nobody advocated heavy drinking (obviously), it was pretty much down the middle on whether it’s ok to drink in moderation or not. The biggest lesson that I learned in this exercise is that people are very opinionated on this topic, no matter which way they lean. When I brought it up last week, I’ve never in my life received more hateful emails and comments. I honestly had no idea what a stir it would cause, and for that I’m sorry. I’m sorry to anyone that I offended and I’m sorry that I did this to myself because it’s caused me excruciating anxiety and many tears over the last week. I decided to pick myself up, and put that energy into this post, so that more people can be informed.
Since then, I’ve read countless articles that scared the crap out of me and made me feel like I’m going to be the worst mother in the world for the handful of glasses of wine I’ve had over the last few months, and some others that made me relax about it a little.
After all of the research I’ve done, I think I’m going to stick to a few sips of my husband’s wine only on special occasions. This exercise changed my view, and I’m grateful for your help with this! That being said, please remember that I’m a first time mom who is trying my best to do everything right, but it can be hard when you get conflicting advice from people that you trust and respect.
I want to be very clear that this post isn’t about giving advice or swaying you one way or the other. It’s just to share what I learned. Every woman’s decision is her own and it should be talked about with her doctor.
So let’s jump right in…
First, let’s review the survey results:
Note: The totals might not always add up to 100% because some of you selected “other” as an answer.
How often is it ok for a pregnant woman to drink wine?
42%- Once in a while
15%- One glass per week
4%- One glass per day
How often is it ok for a pregnant woman to drink beer?
36%- Once in a while
14%- One glass per week
3%- One glass per day
How often is it ok for a pregnant woman to drink hard liquor?
7%- Once in a while
4%- One glass per week
Did you drink when you were pregnant (if applicable)?
Now, let’s read some articles:
You can find hundreds of articles that argue both sides of the story, so I’m posting a few that I found interesting from each camp.
Slate looks into What the Experts Don’t Tell You
Harvard Health Publications posted an article: Drinking a Little Alcohol in Early Pregnancy May be Ok in 2013.
March of Dimes strongly disagrees.
The Huffington Post also argues that no amount of alcohol is worth it in this piece: Is It Ok to Drink Alcohol While Pregnant? 10 Things You Should Know.
One woman wrote Why I Drank While I Was Pregnant for Cosmopolitan.
The Scientific American asks How Much Alcohol is Safe for Expectant Mothers?
Let’s hear what the experts and mamas have to say:
I asked a lot of friends and acquaintances to participate, and the majority didn’t feel comfortable being quoted on this topic. Thank you to everyone who shared your honest opinion!
“Patients often ask me about alcohol consumption during pregnancy. They say thing like “my mom drank when she was pregnant with me” or “my friend’s doctor in France lets her drink wine with dinner.” The answer I always give is that there is no amount of alcohol that is known to be safe. Fetal alcohol syndrome is the most severe form of what is more broadly known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. These can include growth problems, mental and behavioral problems, learning disabilities and abnormal facial features and these effects are for life. While FAS most commonly occurs in women who drink heavily (this is considered 3 drinks in one occasion or 7 or more drinks per week), these effects can also occur with smaller amounts of alcohol. My general advice to patients is that if they want to taste their partner’s wine or cocktail, have a glass of champagne at a wedding or a glass of wine here and there during the pregnancy on special occasions that’s ok but that anything more than the occasional drink or small taste just isn’t worth a lifetime of raising a child affected by FAS.” – Dr. Jamie Kramer, OB/GYN, 36 weeks pregnant
“Hate to be a buzzkill here, but all the major health organizations, including the CDC, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Pediatrics, March of Dimes and others recommend against drinking any amount of alcohol at any point during a pregnancy—and even while trying to conceive. Alcohol is a known neurotoxin that can cross through the placenta and potentially harm a growing baby. While we probably all know a mom-to-be who has enjoyed an occasional glass of wine, there really is no established safe limit or window for drinking when pregnant, so my personal advice is to abstain. In fact, it’s way better to save that glass of vino to celebrate the arrival of your beautiful bundle of joy! In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite mocktails: Combine bubbly seltzer with pomegranate juice and some seeds in a pretty champagne glass. Cheers!” – Joy Bauer, Nutritionist for NBC’s The TODAY Show
“To drink or not to drink during pregnancy, that is the question. Since we cannot quantify how much alcohol is safe, the official stance of health care professionals and what we learn in medical school is that abstinence for the entire duration of the pregnancy is best. This completely eliminates the risk of any cognitive, behavioral, or physical deficits. But this is a controversial topic and the ultimate decision is up to the pregnant patient. It is important to be completely honest with your health care provider. Also, many pregnancies are not planned and many women have reported alcohol intake and even binge drinking in the early stages of pregnancy prior to knowing they were pregnant. This is absolutely OK! The body is an amazing vessel and data suggests that this does not negatively affect the baby if these habits are stopped as soon as the pregnancy is realized.” – Jessica, 4th year medical student at the University of California Irvine
“Alcohol should be mostly avoided in pregnancy. However, having a glass of wine on occasion (say once or twice a month) is fine. However, I would always recommend that it be organic wine and again that it be in moderation–no more than one full glass 2 times a month. The research for or against drinking during pregnancy is inconclusive, but for sure women should avoid binge drinking or even having more than 1-2 glasses of wine per week. When I was pregnant, I enjoyed ordering a glass of wine if we were out to dinner or pouring myself a glass at home, but truthfully, I never finished the glass. I had a few sips and then my husband finished it. Most women, if they’re really tuned into their bodies, don’t have a real taste for alcohol during their pregnancy’s.” – Aimee Raupp, Fertility & Pregnancy Expert, Acupuncturist, Mama of James.
“From a Chinese medical perspective, alcohol warms and moves the blood. In small amounts this might be helpful, such as in the case that a pregnant woman has a lot of cold symptoms or has blocked qi, or energy. However, it differs from physiological warmth and invigoration of the blood and therefore can be harmful, especially in larger amounts. Introducing too much heat or invigorating substance can cause “reckless” movement of blood, which can lead to bleeding. Bleeding and improper circulation of blood can lead to an insufficient supply of blood and nutrients to certain areas of both the mother’s and baby’s bodies. Needless to say, there can be devastating results in extreme cases such as fetal alcohol syndrome or miscarriage.
The timing of alcohol consumption can determine what effect it will have on the baby. Early stages are significant in that there are very important developmental milestones such as brain and spinal cord development in the first trimester. In comparison, the third trimester is relatively safer to consume alcohol when the baby is still developing but the emphasis is on weight gain. While it can be okay to have an occasional alcoholic drink during pregnancy, it’s important to understand the risks and dangers of its consumption. I personally believe that it’s better to err on the side of safety and avoid drinking during pregnancy, which also removes the worry and anxiety of wondering about any potential detrimental effects.” – Ailin Kojima, Acupuncturist, Masters of Science of Traditional Oriental Medicine
“During my first pregnancy, I had an OB in Los Angeles who was fabulously relaxed about everything. He told me that I could have one or two glasses of wine a week– something that surprised me given how “non-drinking fanatical” lots of people are in regards to pregnancy. I didn’t have those two glasses every week, but just knowing I could if I wanted to made me feel less stressed about all of the things I “wasn’t allowed” during those ten months. I also grew up between Italy and the United States, so it was normal for me my entire life to see pregnant women having a glass of wine every now and then– maybe that’s also why it also feels really safe to me. In any case, my kids are totally normal (as far as we can tell…ha!)” – Eva Amurri Martino, Lifestyle Blogger, Mama of Marlowe and Major.
“I’ve never really been a huge drinker so when I got pregnant, it wasn’t really an issue for me. I did, however, crave wine a few times when I was out and about at dinner so I would have a sip or two or three and it would satiate my craving. I never regretted it and my baby turned out well:)” – Arielle Haspel, Wellness Expert, Cooking Show Host, Mama of Gemma
“I think women get way too stressed during pregnancy, and worry a lot more than they need to. That being said, I ate as healthy as I could, continued to exercise (because I think movement is one of the most important things you can do while pregnant), and I enjoyed an occasional small glass of wine, if it sounded good. To be honest though during both of my pregnancies with my son Timothy and my twin boys Robert and William, I never had a craving for wine or coffee. Could be nature’s way of letting me know what my body needed and wanted. On my babymoon in my first pregnancy I went to Jamaica with my husband and there it was nice to have a few sips of a crisp Pinot Grigio. At the very end I had a few glasses in the summertime as well when it was super hot out. My dad said drinking a glass of wine or spirits later in pregnancy can actually help prevent preterm labor and my OB/GYN agreed. My doctor is Italian and told me to have some red wine later in my pregnancy with the twins and I went 38 weeks! Also, when I did my CVS test, my doctor told me to go home and have a glass of wine to relax and mellow the pain at 13 weeks. So I truly think a glass of wine occasionally during pregnancy is the least of our worries!” – Kristin McGee, Celebrity Yoga and Pilates Instructor, Mama of Timothy, Robert, and William
“Overall I was a pretty anxious pregnant woman, worrying about everything under the sun for the first two trimesters (by the 3rd something changed I was much more at ease). By nature I’m a worrier so being pregnant only amplified everything for me. But I also read a lot of articles and books and talked to countless mom friends that all said a glass of wine from time to time was ok. So I did have a few (small) glasses throughout my pregnancy.” – Caitlin Kruse, Mommy Blogger, Mama of Piper
“I have three healthy and happy kids, and have never dealt with any delays, behavioral issues, or health problems. They all scored 9s on the APGAR tests and have consistently met their milestones long before the average age. I drank moderately during all three pregnancies. As a person who values data, I became comfortable to do so after reading Emily Oster’s literature review in Expecting Better. It was really compelling to understand how the media and liability-averse medical community have portrayed pregnancy data, committing the causation/correlation fallacy, and ignoring confounding factors (like cocaine use, for crying out loud!)
Not everyone can be moderate, so it makes sense to set an overall agenda of total abstinence. But for me, I did a lot of research, got very comfortable with the data, risks and risk rates, and made the decision that moderate consumption was fine. For me, that meant I could have a drink when I wanted one. Rarely did I ever have more than one, and I always drank very slowly and with food to avoid a high BAC. It was also important to me that my husband was okay with this choice, so we discussed it at length and were in agreement. This is what worked for us, but I believe each couple should make their own decision, and that moderation is key.” – Anonymous, Mama of Three (I want to note that I’m making this anonymous because it’s such a heated issue, and I don’t want to open myself up for attack. However, I really wish that people would be kinder and more respectful of each others’ parenting decisions. Being a mom is really tough; we shouldn’t make it harder on each other by being mean and judgmental. You do you, I’m gonna do me.)
Comments from Survey Takers:
I tried to include many comments that took different viewpoints. I did not include any that were mean or hateful, as I refuse to spread that kind of attitude on Lemon Stripes.
“I’m a big believer that every woman do what’s right for her when it comes to alcohol and pregnancy, especially since there’s a lack of definitive evidence either way on the topic. Given my love for wine, I thought I would enjoy a glass every now and then during my pregnancy, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it! It’s funny how cultural stigmas affect us; I envy pregnant women in other countries!”
“I agree with the stigma against it. Based on my research I couldn’t find anything to say that the occasional glass of wine (or beer) was detrimental. But the guilt that is imposed by the faulty science that only zero alcohol is acceptable makes it a struggle!”
“I read everything I could get my hands on to see what was safe/not safe, and while deep down I didn’t feel as though one glass of wine here or there was dangerous, there was still this tiny voice that told me to just hold off. I LOVE my nightly glass of wine, but the worry of an occasional pregnancy glass and potential negative ramifications on the baby just wasn’t worth it to me. That was a LONG wine-free year and a half (for breastfeeding) though! Every day when I see his smiling face now, 2 years later, I don’t regret my choice one bit, but I don’t judge the moms who have a glass here and there.”
“I think this is one of the many situations during pregnancy where you’ll hear tons of conflicting opinions and have to decide what makes the most sense for yourself. In theory I think it’s fine if people want to have a glass of wine or beer when they’re pregnant every now and then, but for me it just wasn’t worth the anxiety. Occasionally during my pregnancy I would want a glass of wine, so I’d pour myself a small one, but then I couldn’t even enjoy it because I was so anxious about how it *might* hurt the baby. I just didn’t think it was worth the worry for me, but if others decide to imbibe then I fully support their decision. Hope that makes sense!”
“Giving up alcohol for nine short months was a no-brainer for me, to ensure that my baby was as healthy as possible. I can think of only about a million times I would have loved a glass of wine during my pregnancy, but if I’m trying to provide the best possible environment for my baby to grow and thrive while in the womb, and she doesn’t need alcohol for that to happen, then why put it in my body?”
“There are periods of time during pregnancy where the fetus is more sensitive to things like alcohol, smoke, etc. Doctors don’t know when these periods are exactly, so it is much safer to not drink. We just don’t know enough about how smaller amounts of alcohol affects fetal development, so it is much safer not to. I did a project on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder for a class a few years ago. It has gotten me interested in how things that happen during pregnancy (flu, rubella, colds even, smoke, etc.) affect development (getting ADHD, schizophrenia, etc.)”
“I had two glasses of wine per week during both of my pregnancies. I have two healthy and beautiful girls.”
“Currently pregnant with #2. I always picture how big a glass of wine is, and how little my growing baby is… and imagine pouring it over my baby. I know that’s crazy, but for me… I just don’t see the need for one glass of wine! Who wants just one anyway?”
“Spend one day with a fetal alcohol baby and you will change your mind on alcohol! Best wishes throughout your pregnancy. My sister did drink occasionally with her fourth pregnancy (mostly to cope with four under age 5) and her baby was just fine!”
“It’s 9 months. If you can’t go without for 9 months then there’s a problem. It’s like asking how many cigarettes is OK.”
If you weren’t able to participate in my survey, I’d love to hear your thoughts below. Please keep in mind when writing them, that I value all opinions, but appreciate when things are said in a way that doesn’t put anyone else down.