A recent blurb came up on my facebook page about the fact that about 10% of American women admit to consuming alcohol while they are pregnant. This is only the thousandth time I’ve heard about how awful it is for women to drink while pregnant, and I can’t bite my tongue any more.
I want American’s to realize that this is a cultural rule, not a scientific one. The US has decided, not based on any evidence, that pregnant women are not allowed to drink ever, or they are killing their babies and should feel horrible about themselves. In many other countries (most of Europe and Australia to name a few), national guidelines are based on actual scientific data and recommend pregnant women not exceed 1 drink a day, 7 drinks a week.
There is compelling, well conducted, long term research that shows moderate alcohol consumption in pregnant women is not just safe, is actually of benefit to babies. Babies born to mothers who drank moderately through pregnancy actually show higher IQ’s and lower rates of aggression throughout childhood. Population-wide studies in European countries, where drinking during pregnancy is commonplace, show absolutely no increase risk of harm with moderate alcohol consumption versus the US with its absolute ban.
I would never claim that binge drinking is a healthy choice during pregnancy, or that a woman should be forced to consume alcohol if it is not something that she is comfortable with, or that fetal alcohol syndrome is not a real condition and is not devastating when it happens. There is a known level of alcohol consumption that is dangerous, but this doesn’t mean an across the board ban is the best course of action. As I see it there are 3 main problems with the US’s obsession with women not drinking at all during pregnancy.
1. It makes women who do have a glass of wine feel so bad about it they think they might as well go ahead and finish the bottle. When you stress how horrible having a sip of wine is, the person doing the sipping already thinks they have committed a heinous crime, and has no incentive to stop drinking at that point, they think the damage is already done.
2. We are denying our children the potential benefits of moderate drinking. If you told me taking a prenatal vitamin had the potential to raise my child’s IQ and make them better behaved, you’d better believe I would be taking it (oh wait, I already am taking prenatal vitamins because you told me that).
3. It contributes to the societal view that pregnant women (or women in general) are too stupid to know what’s good for them. The whole reason this ‘ban’ exists is because the powers that be in the US think that pregnant women either don’t know what 1 drink a day is, or won’t be able to help ourselves from drinking more than that once we open the floodgates. We might just get confused in our lady brains and accidentally chug a handle of vodka instead of having a glass of wine with dinner a few times a week.
So quit telling me how horrified you are that 10% of women in the US are doing something good for their babies. Now I’m off to take a bubble bath with a glass of red wine, and I expect praise for all the hard work I’m doing to raise my child’s IQ.