Lisa Baker is a childbirth educator and mother of two in Calgary, Alberta. You can reach her by email at email@example.com.
The topic of alcohol use by pregnant women has once again been highly publicized with the recent release of the book “Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong-and What You Really Need to Know” by economist and mother Emily Oster. In this book the author concludes that “light drinking is fine” and advises pregnant women to “drink like a European adult, not like a fraternity brother.” These statements, based on Emily’s review of research on fetal alcohol exposure, sparked a loud outcry from organizations such as the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS). NOFAS wrote an official response to the release of Expecting Better including the facts about light drinking during pregnancy. Today we will use the iBRAIN framework, originally described in our February 19 blog post, to analyze the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.
When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, even one serving, so does her unborn baby. Alcohol does pass through the placenta and the baby will have the same blood alcohol level as the mother. Alcohol is a known neurotoxin in utero and can destroy fetal brain cells. Alcohol is more harmful to a developing baby than heroin or cocaine.
- There are NO known benefits of alcohol exposure to the developing baby.
- A woman may perceive that she is able to be more social when she consumes alcohol.
- A woman may feel more relaxed if she consumes a serving of alcohol.
- Alcohol exposure during pregnancy, even at low to moderate levels, is associated with miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm delivery, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome can occur when a developing fetus is exposed to alcohol in utero. Symptoms range from problems with learning, socialization, IQ, impulse control, emotional self-regulation, and sensory processing to physical deformities.
- About 90% of babies affected by alcohol exposure in utero will have no physical deformities but will suffer mental and/or behavioral damage.
- Not all babies exposed to alcohol in utero will exhibit physical, behavioral, emotional, and/or learning disabilities. However, the effect of alcohol exposure on a baby may not be seen until that baby has reached teenage and early adult years.
- To relieve stress try exercise, meditation, social clubs or groups, rest, completing a hobby, a warm bath, or chatting with friends or a loved one.
- Try a fancy mocktail to indulge in refreshments at a party.
- Abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy is the only certain way to prevent damage to the developing baby. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant. There is also no known safe time during pregnancy to drink and no safe kind of alcohol.