For decades, doctors have been urging pregnant women to abstain from alcohol. With the primary risk being the possibility of the fetus developing fetal alcohol syndrome, experts say a glass of wine is not worth the risk. However, shocking new data reveals that pregnant women are drinking more than before. Not only is one out of every nine women drinking during their pregnancy, a third of them are also engaging in binge drinking.
Why Are Pregnant Women Drinking
From the Centers for Disease Control, to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, to doctors, to even the back of alcohol bottles there is one clear message: pregnant women should avoid alcohol. So, why do so many women drink? Many believe that alcohol is safe in moderation. Others believe it is okay to drink after the first trimester. Some even believe certain types of alcohol are beneficial to the baby. Reading through parenting forums, Facebook groups, and even print editorials, you will see women claiming that alcohol is safe. Comments like “my grandma drank and smoked, and my mom is just fine” or “if Gwyneth Paltrow thinks it’s okay to drink, why wouldn’t I?” are not uncommon. As a woman in her early 30s, who drank during her pregnancy, explains, many college-educated women like herself “are likely to drink because they consider themselves, however arrogantly, smart enough to question the American medical standard.” Another woman said, “I haven’t seen anything that says I’ll hurt my baby by having a couple of drinks a week.” And while there is no data that can definitively say an occasional drink will result in fetal alcohol syndrome, experts do agree that it increases the risk.
Risks of Drinking During Pregnancy
- Increased risk of miscarriage
- Premature birth
- Still birth
- Low birth weight
- Physical birth defects
- Spine, kidney, and liver disease
- Mental impairment
- Behavioral disorders
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
According to Dr. Sophia Jan, as well as most physicians, “there is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy. There is no safe time during pregnancy to drink. And all types of alcohol are harmful — wine and beer is just as harmful as hard liquor and spirits. Consuming alcohol at any time while pregnant is unsafe but drinking alcohol during the first three months of pregnancy is particularly harmful and consequential for the baby.”
Pregnancy and Alcoholism
For many women, the choice to stop drinking when they become pregnant is significantly more difficult. Those struggling with alcoholism often experience strong cravings and painful withdrawal symptoms that can make nine months of sobriety seem impossible. And because quitting cold turkey can be dangerous or even deadly, asking for help is paramount. However, this is not always easy. Not only is there still stigma surrounding addiction, but women are often judged more harshly by friends, loved ones, and even doctors when admitting that they are struggling with alcohol. But despite any potential judgement, it is important for women struggling with alcoholism to be open and honest with their healthcare provider, seek support in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, and find the right treatment center that can help them overcome their addiction.