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Pregnancy: To Drink or Not To Drink?

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Guest blogger Maggie Vink: As I watched my son grow increasingly frustrated, I knew he needed my help. "OK, stop," I said. "Look me in the eye. Let's take a few deep breaths." After some eye contact and breathing together, he was able to calm down a bit. When I thought he was able to function again, I asked him another question. "Do you want something chocolatey, something sour or something fruity?"

wine glass
Making decisions and logically working through choices is an overwhelming task for my son.Even the simple act of picking out a treat at the store can completely stymie him. And having a problem making decisions isn't the only lifelong challenge my son faces. You see, his birth mother chose to drink while pregnant. As a result, my son suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. He takes everything literally and has terrible difficulty understanding sarcasm and other nuances of language. He has essentially no grasp of cause-and-effect and needs to learn lessons over and over in many different ways before they finally set in.

What's hardest to accept is that my son -- who should have been born without any issues at all -- will never be healed from these problems.At best, he will learn to understand and manage his symptoms. ButFetal Alcohol Effect (or Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder, if you prefer) will walk with him, clutching his hand with a death grip, for the rest of his life. And it's all because his birth mother couldn't put down the glass.

In the last few months, I've encountered articles showing that many pregnant women are indulging in theoccasional drink. A recent study even suggests that light drinking might be beneficial during pregnancy -- that children of light-to-moderate drinkers might be better behaved and less aggressive than the children of mothers who abstained from drinking while pregnant.On the other hand, the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome states that there is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

I've never been pregnant, so I've never been faced with having to turn down a glass of wine during Thanksgiving dinner or having to toast a newly married couple with a glass of seltzer. But when I see my son's sometimes dangerous impulsiveness ... when I see him struggling to make the most basic of choices ... when I see his frustration and anxiety ... I just can't justify a mother having a single drop of alcohol while pregnant.

Moms, what's your opinion? Is it OK to drink a little while pregnant, or should moms-to-be just avoid alcohol completely?


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45 comments so far | Post a comment now
Lauren September 27, 2010, 9:07 AM

My OB said it was okay to have an occasional drink but no more than one a week. However, the most I’ve had is a sip of my husband’s wine pairing on a special occasion. It just makes me too nervous and I figure it’s not hurting me to abstain so I can just wait until after the baby is born.

Jackie September 27, 2010, 12:53 PM

I have not been pg since 2003. But, all three times I was, one of the first things my OB told me was to not drink alcohol. The reason being as he said was that they really don’t know how much is safe during pregnancy. Have opinions on this really changed so much in seven years???

Lydia September 27, 2010, 1:11 PM

I totally agree. It doesn’t hurt the mother to abstain from alcohol, but it could do irreparable damage to their baby. How could anyone justify drinking during pregnancy?! No one knows how much is too much so why risk it at all? I had serious cravings for beer (and I don’t really like beer, lol). I would drool at the sight of the beer aisle and even cried during a couple of beer commercials because I couldn’t have it, BUT I’m a grown up and I have SELF CONTROL. If you can’t possibly go 9 months without drinking, you need to go to AA. Period. I may get a few nasty comments,but this is my opinion.

Yes, life is stressful and a glass of wine can help you wind down, but you need to find another coping mechanism or crutch for the health of your baby. Eating a bowl of ice cream always did the trick for me, :). Yes, cravings are tough (I also craved sushi and feta cheese) and it is stressful and uncomfortable to be pregnant, but grow up and doing something for your baby instead of yourself. It’s only the first of many sacrifices you’ll have to make. You’d better get used to it.

Renae  September 27, 2010, 8:11 PM

Lydia, I couldn’t agree more with you. I’m sure some babies have suffered FAS from minimal amounts of alcohol. Why would anyone ever want to take even a small chance?

Carrie September 28, 2010, 6:04 AM

My sister-in-law is a heavy smoker and told me flat out she will smoke (and drink) when she is pregnant. I was so distraught by this that I bawled. I’ve been pregnant twice, the first ended in miscarriage, the second resulted in my beautiful son. I’m also a recovering addicted, been sober since June 2007.

Hearing her say that floored me on so many levels. I’m sick to my stomach just typing about it. I think people who smoke and/or drink during pregnancy are beyond selfish. But I guess I can only control myself and will continue doing the right thing.

Barbara September 29, 2010, 1:00 PM

My adopted daughter has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She will have obstacles to overcome her whole life because her birth mom chose to drink. My husband and I are exhausted by her behaviors every day. It’s a struggle to keep her safe because of her lack of impulse control. I look at her and wonder how anyone could have been so selfish - to choose to drink and inflict permanent brain damage. It’s not ok to drink while pregnant - EVER.

quesadilla September 29, 2010, 11:25 PM

I’ve never known any mother or father who drank while their children were under 18 who didn’t screw up their childrens’ perceptions of drinking. It is unwise to drink when and where your children may witness it, and it is dangerous to drink while out on the town and then driving home. Taking parenting seriously means being a parent soberly, and sobriety is a reality only when not even a drop, or so much as a droplet, is consumed. Women who drink while they are pregnant are obviously abusing their babies with brain damage, but so, too, are parents who drink in front of their children abusing them psychologically, as they are teaching them that this is how you have a good time.

emmy October 12, 2010, 8:05 AM

I’m sorry that you have to go through the things you do with your child, but wasn’t that YOUR decision to adopt him? You didn’t actually state if the mother of your child was a light, moderate, or heavy drinker while pregnant with your son. Funny that you left that out. I’m on the other side of this debate. I honstley believe that having an occasional glass while pregnant actually helps the mother to relax which is far better than taking synthetic prescibed drugs for anxiety and depression. I don’t believe it’s ok to drink heavily during pregnancy, but I see no harm in drinking 1 glass with dinner once a week. My daughter is a happy and healthy 2 1/2 year old. I drank 2 glasses of wine a month with her to help stave off anxiety. I also ate extremely healthy and avoided fast food and processed foods. She was born perfectly happy and healthy and is thriving socially, physically, and emotionaly. I know women who have obstained from alcohol entirely. Refused to dye their hair, eat fish, lunch meat, soft cheeses, etc. But went crazy on fast food, sugary sodas, and fattening foods. Their children are no more well behaved or smarter than mine. A couple have ADHD and Autism. Go ahead and scold me, other posters. You may think I’m selfish, but that’s your opinion. Pregnancy is a very vulnerable time in a woman’s life. It’s essential that she stays happy and relaxed for herself and her baby.

Maggie October 16, 2010, 7:13 PM

@emmy, I’m not complaining about my son’s condition. Yes, I chose to adopt him and I would do it over again. He’s an awesome kid and I am blessed. But I love him and it’s hard to see someone I love be hurt and frustrated so unnecessarily. I don’t know for sure how much his birth mother drank. I’ve never met her. She stated that she only drank occasionally, but there’s no way to verify that information.

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