Just one glass…?


Is even one worth it?

The leading known preventable cause of mental retardation and birth defects is drinking alcohol during pregnancy. The standard in the United States is recommending NO alcohol use or consumption during pregnancy. It would reduce risk more if alcohol was not consumed before conception pregnancy when someone is trying to get pregnant.

Even with all we know about the potential dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy, I often get the question, comment or statement, “But women in {France, Italy, Ireland, Germany, insert your favorite drinking country here} do it all the time.” But do we know the consequences of that?  

In the U.S. we recommend no alcohol because of the risk for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), a birth defect that results in growth, mental and/or physical problems. Women who consume alcohol during pregnancy are also at higher risk for miscarriage or stillborn birth.  Unfortunately, the highest risk for this is during the first trimester when about half of women don’t realize they are pregnant. However, risk persists throughout pregnancy.

Will even one drink a week, a month or one drink during the pregnancy affect the health of the baby? It can. Because we don’t know what is a safe level of alcohol, we recommend none. Some can drink on occasion throughout pregnancy with no consequences (unlikely), but others may have consequences with even one drink. We don’t know which one you are. This is one study that will never be approved.

If you, or someone you know, drank during pregnancy, this is not intended as a guilt-trip. I know many people, including myself, who drank in the very early stages of pregnancy because we didn’t know we were pregnant. As soon as I knew I was pregnant, drinking stopped. I was nervous, but things came out fine for me and my child.

So, what about the women in France and other countries who drink during pregnancy? According to a study published in 2008, more than half of pregnant women in France drink during pregnancy. However, most of those women were unaware of the risks. It turns out that any culture that consumes alcohol has problems with FAS. So, while women in these countries drink during pregnancy, they aren’t immune to the negative effects and their babies suffer the consequences.

Even a glass of wine puts their babies at risk. Is it worth it?


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