Friday, June 22nd, 2012
186

Drinking While Pregnant

Part of a two-week series on the pull of bad influences in our lives and in the culture.

I found out that I was pregnant on Christmas Day, 2011. I am due on September 4. I had my first drink (not counting a sip of champagne on New Year’s) on March 25, 2012. It was a Michelob Ultra I received after finishing the Shamrock Shuffle 8K. I figured that I earned the beer after running the race, without stopping, in under an hour, plus, a Michelob Ultra hardly counts as a drink. It was delicious and felt a little bit naughty, which was a sensation I realized I missed from drinking. Then again, drinking when you’re 19 is a different kind of naughty than drinking when you’re pregnant.

Even before I got pregnant, I knew I would probably be a woman who drank alcohol during her pregnancy. I knew it because of the wonderfully convenient anecdotal evidence of my pregnant friends who drank the occasional glass or wine or two and who then produced healthy babies (not to mention the millions of us on the planet who made it into adulthood, successfully, despite tippling moms). I knew it because of a few studies that conveniently backed up my suspicions that a little bit of drinking was fine, including the one released this week. (While a “safe amount” of alcohol has yet to be determined, many researchers seem to think it’s a bit extreme to say that “no” alcohol is the only safe amount. Many other researchers disagree.) Also, I knew I would drink because when it comes to certain non-dire activities that pregnant women are often publicly shamed out of doing—typically, convenient or enjoyable activities like drinking limited quantities of caffeine or alcohol or formula-feeding—I want to do that thing.

This is a stupid side of me, a side that doesn’t always want to do as I’m told. I blame my mother for this; she is unapologetic about having smoked while she was pregnant with me, formula-feeding from day one, putting me to sleep face-down and for letting me "cry it out." (I should mention that I think my mother is terrific, and I've had a very blessed, lucky life, despite these so-called travails.)

Since that first Michelob Ultra, I’ve had several more drinks. Mostly at a special occasion—a birthday celebration, wedding, or vacation. Mostly one at a time. Usually no more than a couple of times in a week.

And now, as I type this, it's all starting to sound like an awful lot.

It’s not like I drank my drinks to spite anyone. I drank them because I really enjoyed them, because they felt like treats. With each drink I felt normal, like an adult and not a person on probation. And I know I'm not a doctor, but the amount I drank didn’t feel like it could hurt anyone, not me or the person inside me. “Everything in moderation,” I've been told, and I like that mentality (“everything” of course basically means caffeine and alcohol and exercise and junk food. I haven’t smoked cigarettes or taken any illegal drugs or punched myself hard in the belly, not even once, since becoming pregnant.)

I am extremely good at rationalizing it all here and with people who agree with me. But the thing with drinking while pregnant—while making the decision not to adhere the letter of the law when it comes to the stuff you should and shouldn’t do—is that rationalizing it to anyone else starts feeling… what is the word I'm looking for? Oogy.

After an island vacation, where I enjoyed two frozen drinks a day (I traveled with a neurosurgeon, an oncologist and a dermatologist who all gave me the enthusiastic go-ahead, though I realize they're not obstetricians), I sent my food and drink logs to my therapist, who, over the years, has helped me with weight-and-mental-health issues. “Did you count how many drinks you had over your vacation?” she asked me, and the answer was no, I didn’t. I wrote down how many drinks a day I had but I knew if I added them all up, the number would not look great, late-second-trimester or not. I felt indefensible. I felt like an idiot. I felt like a lush. It was possible I had broken my baby and all I could say was that I had a pretty good time doing it.

The tsk-tskers that I hypothetically had had such a good time giving the middle finger to came screaming in my ear. “I’m sorry, but is it really so hard to avoid drinking alcohol for nine whole months?” is a common refrain on message boards that deal with pregnancy and alcohol. The message is, of course, that not only are you a bad person for drinking while pregnant, you probably have substance abuse problems as well, and shame on you for both.

For what it's worth, I saw my therapist last week and she clarified, "I'm not worried that you hurt the baby. I was worried about how the drinking affected you." She was concerned I'd feel guilty, which, you know, made me feel guilty. But maybe I needed to confront my latent guilt (and then let it go, because while drinking during the pregnancy could be questionable, drinking-and-then-feeling-consistently-awful-about-it can’t be better).

Obviously, I know what I’m doing is not recommended by most doctors, because the one person I have not talked about all this with is my obstetrician. I have a few reasons for this. One: she’s never asked. Two: she doesn’t really know me; I’ve seen her about three times in addition to rotating through a cast of other OB’s. Unlike my other health professionals, she doesn’t know that I know my limits and am not a compulsive liar who says "two drinks" when I really had six drinks, and so why even go there? Three: I know she would disapprove. I tell myself that as long as I’m letting other people know I’m drinking, that it’s not a secret, then it’s not as shameful as I think it is, but still: a little shame, yes.

I regret and don’t regret my drinks so far. Some of them were so unbelievably good—that one thing that really hit the spot. But at the same time, I don’t really know what’s right, even if, deep down, I think things will probably be okay. If light to moderate drinking from the second trimester on is fine, I will be fine, but what if I had one drink more than moderate? What if I screwed up and I hurt someone who is not me and the damage is permanent?

(I do sometimes entertain the idea that by having a few drinks while pregnant, I preemptively screwed up, so that I will enter motherhood knowing that I am inherently flawed as a parent as opposed to thinking I created a perfect child and then suffering a clear moment of agonizing guilt where it all goes awry after I bonk the kid on the head or let him/her scream longer than seems right. I’ve already screwed up, so the next screw-up won’t feel that painful. I’m pre-guilting.)

Moderation has served me well in life up to this point and I’d like to think that I have good instincts. What are instincts in a pregnancy, though? We’re told to listen to the voice inside of us that says when it’s time to relax and take it easy, when it’s time to call the doctor. But my instincts also led me to think I know my body well enough to know how to treat it when I’m pregnant which includes drinking. Which is or isn’t wrong. So should I not have listened to myself? Or listen at some times and not others? I can’t wait for this all to raise its head come labor time, when women are also advised to listen to their instincts—but only to a point.

I only know what I know and don’t know what I don’t know, while my husband knows less and doesn’t-know even more, which is why he wasn’t so sure about those first few drinks either. As he told me: “You see those signs every time you're in a restaurant or a bar about not drinking while pregnant, and I even had a class in college where the professor did this hypothetical scenario about what if you were a waiter and a pregnant woman ordered a margarita, how you would deal with the legalities and moralities of that. So while I trust you, there are all those years of exposure to the withhold-everything side of the country that are hard to get out of your brain.” I didn’t want to make him worry or be disappointed in me, but not enough not to do what I wanted. (Once our doctor-friends told him that it was safe for me to drink moderately in my second trimester on, though, he was much more at-ease with the whole situation. “I want you to have a drink,” he said one night when I'd cooked a four-course dinner for the family. And I did.)

If I had to do it all again from the start, knowing what I know now, I’m not sure that my skin is quite thick enough, my confidence in my own decisions quite that strong to drink again. But that feels disingenuous, as being in the process of writing this piece didn’t stop me from having a shandy at an outdoor party last week. Maybe I blame all the noise out there that has me second-guessing my every other move (I thought I was so lucky that I had friends who passed down a crib and a carseat to me—turns out that I’m actually just a cheapskate who would rather save a buck than keep my baby from dying of SIDS or a fiery car wreck). Maybe (or maybe not even maybe, maybe “definitely”) I’m just selfish. And maybe navigating through all of this is just the tiniest taste of all that’s to come. So, bottoms up.


Previously in series: Bad News Brenda, Drunk In China, The Writer With The Pink Velvet Pants and A Little History Of Blackmail



Claire Zulkey lives in Chicago. You can learn so much more about her here.

186 Comments / Post A Comment

melis (#1,854)

I think the takeaway from all of this is that you should try never to be pregnant during Negroni season.

stuffisthings (#1,352)

@melis I think the takeaway from all of this is that you should try never to be pregnant during Negroni season.

shannowhamo (#226,574)

@stuffisthings I hope the lady who was the victim of Negroni season is never impregnated by the Worst Boyfriend in the World! He would not be a great dad.

metoometoo (#230)

I wish we could have this conversation about using cannabis while pregnant, because I am terrified of dealing with morning sickness and other physical discomfort without the thing that always helps me cope with nausea/pain/discomfort and I have read many anonymous anecdotes about it being harmless/beneficial, but even though I have no plans to get pregnant within the next several years, I am preemptively afraid that the government will come and take my hypothetical babies away just for even thinking about it.

oudemia (#177)

@metoometoo Buy a copy of Panic-Free Pregnancy. Light pot smoking doesn't correlate to any bad outcome.

oudemia (#177)

@metoometoo Although the doctor who wrote does say something along the lines of, "Do not tell anyone you are doing this because they will think you are insane."

litothela (#13,700)

@oudemia
Errrr what kinda sample size was this based on? Are there multiple studies about this? How were the studies conducted? What outcomes were measured? For how long?
I would love if light pot smoking during pregnancy didn't correlate to any adverse outcomes, don't get me wrong.
But my scientist brain won't let me believe one book written by one doctor, nor anecdotes.

metoometoo (#230)

@litothela There are multiple studies in addition to the plethora of anecdotal evidence. A Google search will turn up plenty of information on both sides of the debate, but the pro-cannabis side has the vast majority of actual scientific evidence. (Incidentally, not to pick a fight but I would think a real scientist brain would be a little more aware of the reality of medical cannabis research and less influenced by all the stigmatizing propaganda.)

I don't have a doubt in my mind that occasional use via vaporizer would be beneficial to both a pregnant woman and her baby. My only concern would be that the infant could be drug tested at the hospital and removed by CPS, which seems to be happening with increasing frequency these days.

oudemia (#177)

@litothela "Most studies of marijuana use and pregnancy have focused on heavy users, usually someone who smokes more than five joints a week. If researchers can't find any effects in heavy smokers, then such effects would be even less likely in occasional smokers. There have been literally hundreds of scientific articles looking for adverse effects of marijuana smoking, and many have looked at potential adverse effects of marijuana smoking on pregnancy. The two largest and best designed studies found no association between marijuana use (even heavy use) and miscarriage, complications, or major or minor physical abnormalities. Several small studies have found a connection between the size of the baby and heavy first trimester marijuana use, but this finding has not been consistent. In two large studies, marijuana users had larger babies than nonusers (though not by much). I certainly do not recommend smoking marijuana during pregnancy. On the other hand, I find no evidence that occasional marijuana smoking poses any danger to the unborn child. I say this not to recommend marijuana smoking, but merely to point out that occasional marijuana use appears less dangerous than cigarette smoking." I'll try to find the articles in the bibliography. I have no dog in this fight, as this is not my vice by a long shot. I just found, as a formerly pregnant person, that one was sternly warned off many, many things where it turns out there isn't actually any real evidence of harm.

litothela (#13,700)

@metoometoo
@oudemia
Fair enough! Totally had not taken the time to look into it at all, and was just wondering what sorts of evidence there was, so that's actually great to hear. =) The science part of my brain is skeptical of everything on both sides always, and the pot-smoker part of my brain is happy to hear about such evidence. Glad to hear there will be plenty of studies for me to read when I'm deciding about pregnancies!

hallelujah (#193,489)

@metoometoo I am blessed to be around a great number of vaguely crunchy and exceedingly rational friends as a (now hugely) pregnant person, & therefore used marijuana occasionally through 7 weeks or so of horrific morning sickness (I managed to lose 15 pounds my first trimester) with very little shame or stress. & after so, so, sooooo much research on possible ill effects, confident that the benefit of being able to eat occasionally outweighed the risks.

Claire Zulkey (#6,639)

@oudemia I know, but I love the truth in that. I read in another pregnancy book that you will probably understand what it's like to want to shake your baby, but you won't do it and you won't want to talk about it because you'll sound awful.

scully (#10,214)

@oudemia This is the best pregnancy book out there in my opinion. He also tells you to eat sushi. And yes it's all backed up by a good analysis of the available research.

Kelly Wood (#235,117)

@oudemia
There's evidence that smoking pot during pregnancy can lead to ADHD, and may stunt fetal growth. I really don't understand this discussion. "Probably" won't hurt a baby isn't really good enough, right? When you've messed up your kid, is it going to feel good to say "Well, I felt a little sick" or "I really like to drink." It's really easy to take the advice that let's you do anything you want. Then you have someone to blame if there are consequences.

nomorecheese (#15,517)

@metoometoo If you are even thinking about possibly endangering your child because you can not cope with life/pregnancy without marijuana, you have a dependency and are unfit for raising a small child.

r0semarysays (#11,194)

@Kelly Wood please post this evidence

r0semarysays (#11,194)

@nomorecheese right, because everybody knows exactly how pregnancy will affect them before they get pregnant, and pregnancy only happens on purpose.

metoometoo (#230)

@nomorecheese LOL at this hilariously uninformed point. Your fierce confidence in your position totally makes up for your complete lack of knowledge about this nontoxic plant that has been used medically for thousands of years oh wait not at all.

Claire Zulkey (#6,639)

@nomorecheese Weird, my OB never told me anything about needing to keep my *thoughts* healthy.

Manda Lynn@facebook (#234,918)

@metoometoo I smoked pot through a vaporizer until I was 6 months pregnant, because I had somehow decided that the last trimester was when weed impacted the baby. I'm not positive if this was true, or if it was just "google-true", but my son is now 6 and going into a program for gifted students in the fall! My grandmother swears she drank a bottle of wine every night with each of her pregnancies, and my dad and his siblings have all ended up smart and successful.
I think that it all depends on HOW MUCH smoking/drinking you are doing. Drinking like you used to when you went out to the bar on Saturday night might hurt the baby. But a glass of wine with a movie? I doubt it.

barnhouse (#1,326)

Super good! Interesting. Here is another possibility: you're getting really close to delivery now and that is a time when many pregnant women worry all day and even while sleeping, like I had a dream where I had the baby and she was the size of a grain of rice and I lost her in the carpet (it was a shag carpet! in my dream!)

You will for sure, unavoidably I think, be freaked out some until September 4th (maybe longer if the baby doesn't feel like emerging on time! I hope you don't have to wait!!) Anyway, it's okay, just let the freakout wash right over you. Then the moment will come, you'll see that baby and establish for sure that it is a whole baby and not an alien or a kitten or a baby the size of a grain of rice because there is just no way to be certain until that moment. After that the whole thing is far easier, because you have real evidence.

oudemia (#177)

1. I have a pregnancy book right here that says 2 drinks a day isn't correlated with any adverse outcome. 2. I had at least one glass of champagne every week of my pregnancy and my OB was totally cool with that. 3. The OB who did my CVS (giant needle in gut whilst 10 weeks pregnant) told me to "go home, put your feet up, drink a glass of wine." All is well — and I was all old and everything too.

mathnet (#27)

It's hard to get 'I enjoyed drinking while pregnant' from this article. So I don't really understand why you wrote it. Or drank.

This next judgmental point goes out to millions of people, not just you, who make the 'kid survived' argument: There's a huge difference between surviving and thriving, or even just being fine. 'Kid survived' means kid would have been better off if X, and I fucked up but I'd rather believe it doesn't matter. Even if you're only motivated by selfishness (and I don't actually think you, for example, are), why would you risk subjecting yourself to that experience?

barnhouse (#1,326)

@mathnet Oh my word, no. No no no. Have you any idea where this terrible reasoning would lead a pregnant woman? (clearly no.) Why take the risk (of this not-harmful thing.) Why drink water that just might not be perfectly pure. It's a risk! Why eat less-than-pure food? It's a risk!! Why leave your house, ever?! It's a risk!! That is exactly how people go crazy.

@mathnet This is one of those super-personal harm reduction things that's so hard to make choices about. I don't have a womb, but I do have some experience in highly related health risk management departments. It's hard to make a "risk choice" because math and statistics are weird. Having a .0002% chance of something happening is impossible to plan for and to minimize, because that math doesn't mean that you can do something 999999 times and if you don't do it the next time, you'll be fine. But it DOES mean that risk is highly unlikely.

Also I have been out with a LOT of pregnant ladies this year and every single one of them has had a drink, which I am totally pro, not that my opinion on the matter is worth a whit. But I can understand why some question or worry about their reasonable harm reduction choices. The math stares you into the face, even from the zone of far safety. So feeling the stress expressed here after makes sense to me, and I relate to it, even if you stand by your decision.

mathnet (#27)

@barnhouse Thankfully I'm pregnant and I'm also not going crazy. I try to make informed choices and I often fuck up. I accept that about myself, but I don't excuse it with 'kid survived.'

mathnet (#27)

@Choire Sicha@facebook Totally, I get why she's feeling stressed about it, and I can relate. It's hard to make a lot of changes all at once, in relation to something everyone thinks they have answers about, and somehow feel like you're Doing It Right. I just tend to avoid things that make me feel stressed–especially right now–so drinking has been on my Easy list of Things Not To Bother With. (Also I've been hypnotizing myself in preparation for safe, intervention-free childbirth, so I am 100% brainwashed. Gladly!) You know, I'm realizing that it might be mainly the alt-text on GoodLuckWithYourDemons's photo that irked me. BUT WAS THAT YOU, CHOIRE SICHA.

iantenna (#5,160)

@mathnet this is a really frustrating stance to take. i mean, yes, there are certainly cases of excessive and reckless behavior for which the response "hey, the kid survived" would be offensive and gross. this is not such a case. if there's evidence that a drink or two a day, much less every week or couple of weeks, has adverse effects on the baby i've not seen the study. please, if it exists, show me the way.

also, and you're welcome to dismiss this as hippie dippy and totally anecdotal (and you might be right) but i think high stress levels, both as a pregnant woman, and as a parent in general, are much more likely to have a negative effect on the child than a few drinks. if a drink chills you out, by all means, drink away.

i mean, i'm just a dude so i'm automatically handicapped in any argument about pregnancy. but i do have two kids (one of whom is 2 weeks old) so i have recent firsthand experience with pregnancy. i think first and foremost pregnancy is a very personal experience and that, it's pretty easy to see the difference between a self-destructive individual and someone who is doing their best and figuring it out as they go along. i don't think we should really be shaming anybody because it's not productive but we certainly shouldn't be shaming someone who is clearly not self-destructive and is figuring it out. having a beer or two is not risky behavior so let's not treat it as such.

i just think getting up in arms about this is a really slippery slope. like, for example, my wife is not much of a drinker and quit smoking 10+ years ago, so it wasn't really an issue when she accidentally got pregnant last year with our second child. she had an iud and it failed, which is incredibly risky to begin with, but what if she had been a heavy drinker/smoker during those first few months that she didn't even know she was pregnant? should all sexually active women with iuds not drink or smoke or do drugs because there is that slim slim chance that they're pregnant and don't know it?

iantenna (#5,160)

@iantenna i realized right after posting it that my response is kinda convoluted. pregnancy is a really difficult and complex topic and i kinda lose myself in my own thoughts about it. but i think my main point that i may not have expressed very well is this: every woman is unique and every pregnancy is unique and that, barring totally self-destructive behavior like eating only junk food and snorting speed, we should trust the mother's choices.

we attempted a home birth with our first child and had a doula at the hospital with our second. both times our goal was a safe, intervention-free childbirth, and both times things happened along the way that resulted in my wife needing pitocin and requesting an epidural. both times we felt a small sense of failure and both times the midwife or doula said basically the same thing to my wife, "you did what you needed to do to deliver a healthy baby."

i think we should look at having a drink to take the edge off in the same way as needing pitocin and an epidural after 2+ days of contractions with almost no progress. instead of "well, the baby survived" how about "i did what i needed to do to deliver a healthy baby"?

ipomoea (#207,034)

@iantenna "should all sexually active women with iuds not drink or smoke or do drugs because there is that slim slim chance that they're pregnant and don't know it?"

Actually, there's been recent government recommendations that anyone with a uterus should be taking folic acid every day, basically acting as if we're trying to get pregnant. Like we should all walk around assuming we're pre-pregnant.

When I decided to get knocked up, I very self-righteously decided to start eating/drinking as if I was pregnant. When I did get pregnant and told my GP about that, she told me very firmly that, in the future, keep drinking until I was pregnant– a glass of wine is more beneficial than stressing out over something I couldn't control. In essence, "drink 'til it's pink." With #2, that will be my plan. And after the first trimester, I started having sips of my husband's beer if he had one (sometimes he had one at my direction so I could get a sip or four). On my due date, I had a glass of wine and a bag of M&Ms for dinner. The kid came late, huge, and healthy, and he has continued being huge and healthy, and hitting developmental milestones early. I don't feel bad about the beer or champagne or wine I had, and I won't with the next kid.

mathnet (#27)

@iantenna That argument is offensive to me any and every time it's made. I haven't actually condemned her for drinking? And I've already said that I highly value stress-avoidance during pregnancy, but if drinking is the only tool you have for stress-relief, then that's a problem. (I don't think Claire's said that.) And in answer to your last question, No?

@iantenna Actually, evidence that maternal stress is bad for fetal development is neither hippy dippy nor anecdotal. From a 2002 review of the literature: "Recent well-controlled human studies indicate that pregnant women
with high stress and anxiety levels are at increased risk for spontaneous abortion and preterm
labour and for having a malformed or growth-retarded baby (reduced head circumference in
particular). Evidence of long-term functional disorders after prenatal exposure to stress is
limited, but retrospective studies and two prospective studies support the possibility of such
effects."

barnhouse (#1,326)

@mathnet I am very glad you are not going crazy! Pregnancy is super stressful already without having to beat yourself up about every tiny thing you might have "done wrong."

oudemia (#177)

@science is sexy@twitter I was reading one of these semi-recently. A study of the children in a town in Quebec whose mothers were pregnant with them during some extended disaster during which no one had electricity (or something like that?). The argument was that their mothers' stress cost them IQ points.

mathnet (#27)

@iantenna (I think we're getting off topic, but I absolutely Will Not be disappointed in myself, or ashamed, if it turns out that we need any interventions. And I'm glad–for your sake, and your wife's, and your baby's–that your priority for both of them was health and safety. That's the reason people try, in the first place, to have intervention-free births when possible; the outcomes of normal, low-risk pregnancies and births are better that way.)

iantenna (#5,160)

@mathnet sorry, which argument? do you mean the "well, the baby survived" argument or something i said? if the latter, i apologize, i did not mean to offend. i think we're mostly in agreement in the sense that saying "well the baby survived" is an admission that you think you did something risky. so yeah, if you think you're doing something bad for the baby, don't do it. but those few drinks weren't bad so the author should own it. "fuck yeah, i had a beer" instead of "well, the baby survived".

@oudemia I always think it's interesting, in discussions like this (and in a lot of discussions!) very few people acknowledge the fact that emotional states are results of biological processes, and therefore affect the prenatal environment. Like the well-being of the mother is somehow separate from the Things That Affect the Baby. Here's the study you were talking about.

mathnet (#27)

@iantenna (Right, the 'kid survived' argument. I don't have an opinion on her drinking; what I was saying about Claire was, she doesn't seem to feel good about her drinking, so it's hard to understand why she drank, or wrote about it in this way.)

@barnhouse The very real likelihood that I would turn both my body and my home into impenetrable fortresses if I had offspring is a big part of the reason I don't have any.

shannowhamo (#226,574)

@mathnet I get what you're saying, that drinking seemed to cause her mild stress because of the extreme preaching against it here in the U.S. But not actually because she didn't enjoy those drinks or because she had any real fear that something would happen, she weighed the (seemingly minor) risks and rewards and took the chance. But for some reason guilt is just inevitable because people feel entitled to judge other people's children-realted decisions. The way you originially made your point seemed judgey because no one actually meant that an alive, fucked up baby would be a fine outcome from drinking nor is that what the research indicates is likely.

barnhouse (#1,326)

@Better to Eat You With YMMV, obviously, but many parents of my acquaintance were forced to mellow out just from the sheer exhaustion of worrying so much. A lot of people = eventually you throw up your hands and hope for the frackin' best. Which is healthy, I think? Or, as healthy as we are gonna get. It is not possible to anticipate every eventuality.

Moff (#28)

One of the top OBs in the country told my wife and me when she was pregnant about a study of British women who drank two Imperial pints a day, every day, while carrying their children. The kids turned out fine! Except for being British, I mean.

scully (#10,214)

@Moff Yup. I gestated my first offspring while living in Scotland and let's just say the attitude of "Guinness is Good For You" is taken very literally there. Like my nurse practitioner actually told me to drink Guinness regularly because of its high iron content and brewers yeast component.
And imperial pints are no joke!

Ophelia (#75,576)

@Moff I lived in London for a while, and at some point, the NHS revised their health guidelines downwards to something like 1 pint a day for pregnant ladies, and the outcry was LOUD!

hershmire (#233,671)

Moral concerns aside, I find it an unnecessary risk to take. There are so many things that could go wrong with a pregnancy – why tack on one more just for a Michelob Ultra? And all based on anecdotal evidence from your friends. If I were in your place, I would try to minimize my exposure to anything that would harm the foetus.

Of course, I am a guy, so there's that.

@hershmire "Five new papers published in the obstetrics and gynecology journal BJOG took a look at more than 1,600 Danish women and their children, and compared kids born to nondrinkers with those who had parents that could be classified as light drinkers (one to four drinks a week), moderate drinkers (five to eight drinks a week), and heavy drinkers (nine or more a week)…. By the time children reached age 5, light, moderate, and strangely enough, even binge drinking while pregnant didn't have any discernible effect on a child's overall IQ, attention spans, or self-control. The same wasn't true for women classified as heavy drinkers."

melis (#1,854)

@hershmire An unnecessary risk?? LOOK AT YOURSELF, MAN, YOU'RE HANGING UPSIDE DOWN

that's terrible for you in the long run, you're not Batman, don't be a hero!!!

hershmire (#233,671)

@Choire Sicha@facebook I still personally consider it an unnecessary risk. If I were a pregnant woman, I would wait the nine months, despite what the Danes think.

melis (#1,854)

@hershmire What a bold and selfless hypothetical gesture you'll never have to follow through with!

tales (#7,625)

@hershmire How refreshing and novel for a dude to be telling pregnant women what's best for them.

hershmire (#233,671)

@melis I plan to go 9 months without drinking in solidarity with my future wife.

vendetta73 (#13,034)

@hershmire Light drinking during pregnancy is only an "unnecessary risk" if it's a "risk" in the first place, and I'm not sure you've offered any reason for believing that to be the case. Indeed, you say that the author's reasoning is "all based on anecdotal evidence" while ignoring the three scientific studies she cites in the very next sentence after she mentions those anecdotes. The fact that you "personally consider" something risky is, if anything, even less compelling than anecdotal evidence.

It sounds like you're not sure why having the occasional drink while pregnant would be important enough to risk even the barest whisper of the possibility that it might harm the potential baby. For my part, I'd say it's because medical discourse and social custom have in recent decades erred far too much in the direction of treating the pregnant woman's body as if it were no longer her own but simply there to provide the best possible habitat for the developing fetus. A lot of things can go wrong in a lot of situations. If you didn't want to cause "unnecessary risk" to an innocent, you wouldn't ever drive a car or buy anything made in a country without the strictest environmental standards. So why is it that a particular set of women are asked to devote nine months in the prime of their lives to thinking ONLY about what might harm the baby when we don't demand the same level of risk-assessment of any other set of people at any other time?

Moff (#28)

@hershmire: I planned to do that, and my horrified wife said there was no way in hell she was gonna put up with a not-drinking me for nine months while carrying a child.

freetzy (#7,018)

@hershmire No, no, no, having two stone sober people under one roof is just a recipe for disaster.

hershmire (#233,671)

@vendetta73 Er, because it would be my (hypothetical) child. You can put whatever you want into your body. If I don't want to expose my child to alcohol, I don't have to. Call it irrational if you want.

Man, this is getting to feel like attending a party where people get pissed off because you refuse a drink. No judgement involved; I just don't want the drink.

Moff (#28)

@hershmire: Are you calling me an alcoholic? Because I will break this goddamn beer bottle over your goddamn head.

vendetta73 (#13,034)

@hershmire It's a little more like a party in which you refuse a drink and then proceed to tell everyone who has a drink in their hand that they're taking "unnecessary risks" despite the absence of any objective evidence that your course of action is any safer than theirs.

But rest assured, in the theoretical future in which the strawmen have taken over and insist that all pregnant women MUST drink in moderation, I will definitely stand up for your future wife's right to abstain.

hershmire (#233,671)

@Moff I think we should hang out.

Ada.Veen (#14,478)

@hershmire you might want to see how your hypothetical future wife feels about this issue before you make grand statements about what will and will not happen to her body.

"if I don't want to expose my child to alcohol, I don't have to." you are aware that this isn't at all your decision, right?

Andsoitgoes (#224,697)

@hershmire Wouldn't this hypothetical baby have a hypothetical mother with the ability to make her own decisions about her hypothetical body?

hershmire (#233,671)

@Ada.Veen @Andsoitgoes You did read the part where I said "If I were a pregnant woman…" right? That's the hypothetical part.

@hershmire I'm just going to assume we're being trolled here and move on with my life.

sox (#652)

@hershmire Splitting crazy neon troll hairs here, but umm, am I mistaken or don't babies usually incubate for 10 months?

It's called Drynuary, not drymester.

mathnet (#27)

(And if convenience is what you're after, then you may want to re-think formula.)

Moff (#28)

@mathnet: Breastfeeding is a lot of wonderful things. But speaking as an observer, I am not sure I'd put "convenient" super high on the list. (I am not sure I'd put it high on the list for formula, either. I am not sure the word "convenience" belongs anywhere in the same realm with feeding a baby. BABIES.)

mathnet (#27)

@Moff Well, neither is easy, but if convenience means not having to own/carry special feeding equipment or food, or cool/warm anything, or mix anything, or pay anything, etc., then formula-feeding does not compute.

oudemia (#177)

@mathnet Being able to hand off feeding to a partner sure is convenient sometimes!

Moff (#28)

@mathnet: Oh, that's all true! But it also often means pumping, not sleeping for more than a few hours straight, infections, supply issues, discomfort or even pain, and possibly dealing with a child who just cannot latch. And there's still plenty of stuff to carry, what with the pump and any bottled milk. I'm sure for some women it's an unalloyed joy, but I also think one of the most upsetting things for my wife was that she thought it would be (the literature certainly comes down on that side), and wow, it was tough. Some of that had to do with our particular situation, but still.

Moff (#28)

@oudemia: Yep.

mathnet (#27)

@Moff Totally! I'm lucky enough to work from home and we don't plan to use bottles outside our house, so we won't have to carry the pump or bottles anywhere or cool/warm anything, and what you're feeding the child doesn't necessarily determine how many times you'll feed him/her during the night, but I'm definitely not expecting it to be easy. It frustrates me on your wife's behalf that anybody set her up to expect that it should be simple. That serves no one.

mathnet (#27)

@oudemia Sure! And you can do that with pumped milk.

Moff (#28)

@mathnet: Yep, you're still gonna be up at night, but like oudemia says, I think it's a little easier to hand off when you're using formula, if only because (this is my understanding as a MERE MALE OBSERVER) sometimes you get so full you couldn't sleep even if there was already bottled milk ready to go.

Anyway, all that said, TOTAL ENDORSEMENT OF BREASTFEEDING FROM THE MOFF HOUSEHOLD.

C_Webb (#855)

@Moff Also — YOU CAN DO BOTH! If you supplement with formula for a nightly feeding or a day trip or if mom goes on a little bender or whatever, everyone wins! And the boobs still figure out how much milk to make, because boobs are fucking brilliant!

mathnet (#27)

@Moff (It's possible to nurse lying down, with your child in his own three-sided crib that's hooked up to the side of your bed. You don't always have to get up and hold him in a chair. And if engorgement is a thing, then sometimes that's due to not-enough nursing during the day. A warm shower before bed can help with getting rid of some surplus milk before trying to sleep.)

Moff (#28)

@mathnet: Believe me, my wife was well aware of all the possibilities; with our particular, wonderful child, they remained pretty much that. And it was certainly not for lack of trying or help from numerous qualified and caring personnel.

Again, our situation was probably an outlier. But the end result was that, despite Herculean effort on my wife's part (she was amazing), the most basic breastfeeding was troublesome and, crazy as it sounds, stuff like lie-down feeding simply did not work. As you can imagine, it was hideously stressful for her (and some of the stress lingers), and that was sort of exacerbated by the constant chorus of helpful advice and the general tone of much of the reading. The point, as I know you know, is just that although we can make generalizations about pregnancy and babies and parenting that are useful, every one of them really is different, and what works in 99 situations doesn't always in the 100th.

mathnet (#27)

@Moff Ugh, quite right. I wish–since it's clear that she really wanted it to go well–that it had gone well. No need to, like, say this to her, especially right now, but it is possible that–if you decided to have another child, and if she wanted to give breastfeeding a try with him or her–her experience would be different with a different child. For now! 100% support–which you're obviously giving her–is definitely the way to go.

Moff (#28)

@mathnet: WE KNOW ALL THAT. I am not asking for validation or advice. I WANT YOU TO SEND MONEY.

Moff (#28)

@mathnet: And anyway, I'm only like 84% supportive.

Jillsy Sloper (#12,648)

@mathnet Did you just recommend the purchase of special furniture in the service of something you're claiming is more convenient?

mathnet (#27)

@Jillsy Sloper No? I mentioned removing one of the four rails from your convertible crib and using bungees to hook it up to your bed. One time. And sleeping that way is not just for families who breastfeed.

shannowhamo (#226,574)

@Moff Mathnet appears to be a zealot and they do not take hints, they will continue to offer advice about whatever crunchy thing they think is right until you scream that they stop. I have a friend like this and I love her but I will put a gag rule on her if I ever have a child because I disagree with her parenting style (but would never tell her, since she hasn't asked!) Everyone does what they think is best, some people just think their way is the very bester bestest.

mathnet (#27)

@shannowhamo Hi Moffy! It's your crunchy zealot calling! Thanks for your unsolicited advice, but Moff and I are friends, and I'm confident that neither of us thinks the other is anything but reasonable and kind. Plus HE WAS ARGUING WITH ME.

Moff (#28)

@mathnet: This is the first time I've ever spoken to you, and furthermore, I HAVE NEVER LIKED YOU.

@shannowhamo: But yeah, really, like the lady said, we're good here, thanks.

ormaisonogrande (#235,101)

@Moff et al From my anecdotal evidence of 5 friends, I think the ratio of women with serious difficulty to women where it's awesome and easy is way higher than we are normally led to believe. Out of my five friends, two had it more or less easy. One absolutely could not get her children (twins) to latch, and ended up renting some sort of gigantic breast pumping machine for the first four months. One got terrible infections that still make me cringe to think about. One simply didn't produce enough and her doctor told her to use formula because her baby wasn't gaining enough weight.
I feel like breastfeeding is one of those things where if it easy for them, it makes them assume that it is equally easy for everybody and that anyone with problems just isn't trying hard enough. Which is just patently not true, and seriously, there is a reason that there have been wet nurses for thousands of years. Some women are awesome at breastfeeding. Others not so much.

Moff (#28)

@mathnet: Also, I have never thought of you as crunchy. More like smooth as satin. (HI, JOE!!!)

scully (#10,214)

@oudemia Yes or being able to feed a baby while in a speeding (but of course not over the speed limit) car! And don't tell me you can achieve that via pumping b/c as soon as we bring pumping into the equation breast feeding defaults to less convenient. Pumping may be the least convenient activity on the planet.

mathnet (#27)

@ormaisonogrande Speaking only for myself–a person who has not even attempted breastfeeding yet–it's never occurred to me to blame the woman who's trying to nurse and facing obstacles. But I will admit to making snap judgments sometimes about the health professionals advising her. In the U.S., women aren't always fortunate enough to get good information and help. For example, having no idea what I'm talking about regarding your third friend's specific case, I'd guess that it's possible her baby's doctor was not using the WHO's growth charts–which are more appropriate for looking at weight gain and growth in children who are breastfed. And I'm totally with you on the wet-nurse thing, which is why I'm glad that milk banks are making a comeback. No, it's not really the same thing, but they can still be a great resource.

shannowhamo (#226,574)

@Moff I wasn't actually trying to save you from her unwanted advice and your exchanges were clearly playful…I was just making a statement that there is a certain kind of parent that seems to push their style on people to a degree that makes me uncomfortable and seem judgey. And it's THE INTERNET so I'll just type something snippy and make myself feel better. And what I find funny is that mathnet has embraced the title of Crunchy Zealot! Because obnviously my comment isn't going to change anyone's behavior and it's like typing into a void.

mathnet (#27)

@scully Absolutely, if your child is going to have all his meals in a speeding car, formula's the answer.

shannowhamo (#226,574)

@mathnet That is still being judgey! You are saying that this friend of an Internet person you don't know doesn't know enough about the healthy weight of her baby (and heaven forbid she trust her doctor) to proceed with breastfeeding in a manner you find sufficient. If someone is satisfied with what their doctor says and doesn't choose to do additional research to rationalize continued breasfeeding that's up to them and it affects you in no way.

ormaisonogrande (#235,101)

@mathnet I don't know what charts they were using either — I live in Italy, but have no idea what that means either way in this case. I only know that her daughter wasn't gaining weight and (after the first bit where it's normal) was still continuing to lose it. Her doctor let it go for a week or two and then decided that it was worrisome enough that she should add formula.

mathnet (#27)

@shannowhamo I sure should have mentioned more than once that I'm judgmental and self-aware. Stop (not) reading my comments.

Moff (#28)

@shannowhamo: It helps if you know that she is actually a judge. I mean, a bankruptcy judge, but still!

mathnet (#27)

@ormaisonogrande (My point was just that it's possible the people who you think blame your friend for 'not trying hard enough' are actually not looking at her that way. If her daughter's pediatrician was knowledgeable about breastfeeding, and was referencing the WHO's breastfeeding-aware growth charts, and they decided together that her little girl was still not in a safe zone for weight gain, then I'm very glad that they took steps to protect her health.)

iantenna (#5,160)

@mathnet: first of all, bless your passion. i hope you get your ideal pregnancy/labor/birth/child/etc. i realize that sounds a little condescending but i honestly don't mean it that way. that said, maybe take your foot off the gas a little bit? there's theory and there's practice and shit happens. shit like, for whatever reason your boobs don't agree with feeding lying down and you just need some fucking sleep or you're gonna lose your mind. and shit, like, you go back to work after 3 months because, you know, mortgage/bills/college funds/etc. and even though they're supposed to provide a room for mother to pump the principal at your school is a piece of shit and he gives you a dank, windowless room that doubles as a supply closet and you're too damn tired to file a williams complaint and deal with the school district bureaucracy and when you try to pump behind a cubicle in your classroom during breaks it works ok unless there's a man in the room or the phone rings or you forgot the pump at home. you know, LYFE AND SHIT.

anyway, i know you're saying you're not being judge-y or blaming anyone for doing it wrong or whatever, but some of your comments read as pretty darn snide (e.g. "Absolutely, if your child is going to have all his meals in a speeding car, formula's the answer.").

scully (#10,214)

@mathnet No, more like if you ever want to feed your child while you both ride in a car (instead of stopping somewhere roadside to breast feed) AND you want convenience – then formula is the answer.

Basically for anyone who has to make a more than 90 min drive anywhere with a newborn. And I feel I should mention – since we're taking things very literally here – that someone ELSE would be driving the car while the formula feeder is seat-belted in back with the car-seated baby.

mathnet (#27)

@mathnet Um, seriously. I understand all you were parenthetically mentioning is that formula is not automatically the more convenient baby-feeding option portrayed in the column above. That is true! And then Moff came and fucked it all up.

Moff (#28)

@mathnet: The important thing to remember here is HOW HANDSOME I AM.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

certain non-dire activities that pregnant women are often publicly shamed out of doing—typically, convenient or enjoyable activities like drinking limited quantities of caffeine or alcohol or formula-feeding

If you're old enough to be pregnant, you really should be consuming real food, not formula.

imongo (#235,083)

@SidAndFinancy LOL! I know…the all formula diet made my poo seem soft, off-color and rather odiferous. Glad to get back to whole foods again.

imongo (#235,083)

Glad I don't get preggers…I can do without the booze, but during my hayday I loved the ganga too much to do without. Just eat right and drink plenty of fluids girls! And thank you.

laloca03 (#8,010)

meh. unless you get diagnosed with GDM (have you been screened yet?), I don't see the problem with an occasional drink. I'm due in mid-august, and at my last appointment I told the nurse I still occasionally drink beer. her reaction? "hunh. never had anyone admit that before."

the last thing the world needs is more babycenter nuts going ZOMG YOU SPILLED WINE ON YOUR FINGERS YOUR BABY IS GOING TO HAVE FIVE HEADS AND FLIPPERS!!! there are other things to worry about – like have you picked out a car seat yet?

FODForever (#211,699)

@laloca03 Relevant.

Claire Zulkey (#6,639)

@laloca03 passed my GDM and so far at just about every appt my OB has declared me "boring," which I love to hear.

freetzy (#7,018)

In France the pregnant ladies drink wine but don't eat salads, so who fucking knows?

MlePetitColbert (#234,160)

@freetzy I live in Paris, and not infrequently see very pregnant ladies on terraces sipping rosé on a nice sunny day. No one bats an eye.

stuffisthings (#1,352)

@freetzy They are much more firm with their fetuses in France, they don't just let them have the freedom to get whatever birth defects they want.

Lemonnier (#14,611)

"Michelob Ultra… was delicious."

WHAAAAAAT

@Lemonnier Yeah, that was the REAL part of this article that set me off. MY GOD WOMAN YOU CAN GET DECENT BEER IN CHICAGO. :)

scully (#10,214)

@Choire Sicha@facebook I'm 9.5 mos gone and I brake ONLY for Linden St Black Lager.

Susannaf (#231,800)

"This is a stupid side of me, a side that doesn’t always want to do as I’m told."

Don't apologise.

You are a grown, mentally capable adult who is not an alcoholic and who can quote peer-reviewed science papers that support your decision. Everyone else can butt out and stop making you feel guilty.

MissMushkila (#42,100)

I completely intend to drink when I am pregnant on occasion, maybe because I don't like to do as I'm told, but more so because I don't like being told what to do by people who are basing their directives on alarmist fears. Also, I know my mom had a drink every once in a while, so maybe it is inherited?

No, it's probably the not wanting to do what I'm told thing. I think it would be HILARIOUS to go into a restaurant very visibly pregnant and order a glass of wine.

jaimeleigh (#1,840)

Somebody has to chime in with the unpopular opinion! You know, any time that conversations come up about what is best for baby, inevitably people mention what their mother did and how they still turned out okay. As if, you know, you turned out okay because your mother smoked and not in spite of the fact that she smoked. Yes, of course you can make poor decisions and not suffer consequences. That is why we aren't all dead in our teens – luck rescues all of us at some point. But it is the height of selfishness to take a risk when you aren't the one who will suffer the consequence if you aren't on the lucky side of the statistics.

I understand that it is the thing now, as females, to champion our right to do whatever the fuck we want in pregnancy and child rearing, and to celebrate hating it and making decisions that go against what is considered best and healthiest. But I suspect most of the people offering their encouragement of your drinking have never met anybody affected by any FASD. I have. It is heartbreaking.

Drinking during pregnancy can have devastating results – how that is not enough to sway a pregnant woman is beyond me. (I am not talking about one or two drinks over the course of pregnancy. And neither, it should be pointed out, are you.)

But yeah, bottoms up.

Susannaf (#231,800)

@jaimeleigh Yes, being an alcoholic is bad for a baby.

But the peer-reviewed evidence shows that moderate drinking does NOT harm a baby.

That's what's being pointed out over and over again this thread, and that is why people who tell pregnant women they must never ever drink are demeaning those women.

jaimeleigh (#1,840)

@Susannaf You are incorrect to say the evidence shows moderate drinking does not harm a baby. The wording I have seen states it MAY not harm a baby. These are not the same things.

Further, for every study out there that states one conclusion, there are three that state another. Which is great, of course, because it means we can always find a study to back up what we want to believe.

oudemia (#177)

@jaimeleigh Because science doesn't work that way. No study is *ever* going to say "does not harm." It will say "No correlation has been found." You can't prove a negative, and people always try to use this fact to claim that nothing important has been shown.

CrazyJaney (#235,085)

For everyone commenting "why risk it", I will tell you why – to feel like a normal f***ing human being for 1 hour, instead of a walking incubator. A normal person, not someone whose body has suddenly become a public thing to comment on, to endure stares and belly rubs from strangers and constant inane comments on how you're "about to pop" or how "you'll never sleep again" or "your life is going to change forever". I'm 36 weeks with my very wanted first, but I have moments were I would pay any sum of money to not be pregnant for a day – not to have the baby right now, but to have a day where I felt normal and had my normal body back and my life didn't revolve around the baby and pregnancy. Finding other ways to feel just a little bit more normal is what keeps me sane some days.
Furthermore, it's ridiculous to assume that you care about the safety or health of a fetus more than it's mother does. No one, not even my husband, loves my baby more than I do. The same goes for the author. I can guarantee that no one loves her fetus more than she does, so by criticizing her, all you're doing is concern-trolling.

shannowhamo (#226,574)

@CrazyJaney And I think this is the deal- if it's important enough to you to feel sane then fucking do it, you know? The people who are like "WHY RISK IT!? either find their normal-feelingness in other ways, don't like to drink that much, and/or haven't been pregnant. Concern trolling indeed. They aren't concerned but they want people to know how much better a baby incubator they are (or will be!)

Jillsy Sloper (#12,648)

Do NOT tell your OB. I specifically asked mine, "If I told you I had half a glass of wine with dinner once a week or so, would that go on my chart or something?" She said "No." I said, "I have have a glass of wine with dinner once a week or so," and she scheduled me an appointment with the substance abuse counselor. It was super unpleasant — the conversations, and picturing their relief when I miscarried.

Moff (#28)

@Jillsy Sloper: Ugh. That's awful — I'm so sorry.

CrazyJaney (#235,085)

@Jillsy Sloper How ridiculous. You need a new OB.

mathnet (#27)

@CrazyJaney Or a midwife.

Moff (#28)

@mathnet: I always feel like, why go for the midwife? This is important. Get the topwife.

iantenna (#5,160)

@Moff aaaaannnd… SCENE. nice work everyone, let's call it a day.

hallelujah (#193,489)

@Jillsy Sloper welp, that is quite literally my worst nightmare, as an occasionally drinking, heavily pregnant woman. I am so sorry you had to go through that.

Claire Zulkey (#6,639)

@Jillsy Sloper I am so sorry to hear that. Way to punish someone for being honest, too.

Jillsy Sloper (#12,648)

@Claire Zulkey Right??? I mean, I'm definitely not going back to that OB, but if I do ever manage to get pregnant again, I'm not telling the truth about wine or sushi, either.

ipomoea (#207,034)

Pregnancy seems to be a really easy way for society to infantilize and pass judgement on women. A brief list of things you shouldn't do while knocked up BECAUSE OF THE BABY:
hot tubs, hot baths, alcohol, caffeine, lunch meat, soft cheese, meat that isn't well-done, sushi, tuna, be near smokers, eat anything with artificial sweeteners, fresh juice, un-firm eggs (Caesar dressing, hollandaise, etc), pate, sprouts, smoked salmon, hot dogs, bacon, raw shellfish, local foods, raw milk, leftovers, nail polish, hair color, loud music, god knows what else.

Being pregnant blows in a purely physical sense, the list of things that might give you a flipper baby is enough to make you crazy. Chill out and indulge with education and moderation, and perfect the stink-eye.

jaimeleigh (#1,840)

@ipomoea you do realize that some of the things you listed can cause miscarriages? So, you know, it is less BECAUSE OF THE BABY and more NOT TO KILL THE BABY.

Good god, advising women not to eat soft cheese (to avoid listeriosis! in an effort to keep your baby alive!) is now considered passing judgment??

I know this may seem batshit, but some women actually WANT to know which things might harm their baby and they might WANT to avoid those things because of the risk. Providing that information isn't infantlizing, it is educating.

CrazyJaney (#235,085)

@jaimeleigh The problem is, the medical community and the world at large assumes that pregnant women are all too simple to understand the complexities behind these things and the relative risks associated, so they just give us a big list of no's. You can eat soft cheese as long as it's pasteurized because it doesn't have the listeria risk, but no one says that, they just say NO SOFT CHEESE. There's scant evidence that light alcohol consumption is harmful, but all we hear is NO ALCOHOL because we're not trusted to be moderate.

Moff (#28)

@CrazyJaney: But in fairness to the medical community and the world at large, people are super dumb.

oudemia (#177)

@CrazyJaney This is exactly right. So much of the medical advice surrounding pregnancy involves either lying to or withholding information from women "for their own good": because they can't be trusted to be moderate, or employ critical thinking skills, or not be lazy self-serving hags, or what have you. My baby (MY BABY!*)and I were sort of tortured in the hospital because, although I was not producing milk and the baby was starving and screaming, they wouldn't let me have formula because one teeny step down that slippery slope (even though he needed to eat!) and I'd be feeding him Grape Nehi and jelly babies.
*I will never not be able to do that. See also: Negroni Season!

C_Webb (#855)

@jaimeleigh I know what you mean, but I think the rage comes in response to the perceived need to police pregnant women, and the right some people assume they have to judge pregnant women's nutritional or lifestyle choices. People — primarily other women, in my experience — say things to pregnant women that they would never, ever say to anyone else. It's not unlike people who feel they can touch pregnant bellies without asking. It's as if the baby belongs to the world, and the mother is just the inferior vessel carrying it around for a while.

@jaimeleigh but also, those things are generally found to cause miscarriage in extremely low rates. But miscarriages are extremely common, even given our current knowledge of what *might* possibly cause them. The sad fact is, they happen, and no, we can't always stop or prevent it. Having a long list of things to avoid gives people the comforting feeling that maybe they have some power over the situation, but they don't. And constantly shaming women who choose to continue their lives in a normal fashion doesn't actually help anybody. The women who try to avoid all the things on that list and still miscarry only end up feeling like it is still their fault. It's not. It is just an awful thing that happens, that we don't have control over.

lionel (#4,267)

@oudemia What?! That's nuts! How is formula even a slippery slope? What if you don't want to breast feed?
I do want to add something, as a future-doc. I was concerned by the author's reluctance to share her drinking with her OB. The general public doesn't know soft cheese carries listeria or that honey carries botulism, or a vast number of other little health details. It's not their job to know that. It's the doctor's job-literally. I want to encourage all 'pinners pregnant or not to talk to your doctors. Please don't lie, even by omission, or hesitate to ask questions. They may not necessarily agree with you, but a good doctor won't judge you. Withholding information only handicaps your doctor and you might be withholding something you don't realize is actually important information. Just want to put that out there. Not specifically in reference to alcohol in pregnancy.

scully (#10,214)

@lionel But doesn't pasteurization kill listeria and most of US produced soft cheeses are pasteurized? This is exactly the point – there shouldn't be a total ban on these things b/c pregnant women can research and make informed decisions. However doctors will put a ban on things like sushi and soft cheese across the board because of not wanting to explain the nuances or not trusting their patients to figure them out. Also, there is the specter of malpractice law suits, so doctors tend to be overly cautious because of that too.
I totally agree that honesty with your doc is the best policy – I'm just saying it's not necessarily the route to the most accurate information.

ipomoea (#207,034)

@jaimeleigh As a chronic over-prepare-er (I research! It's my graduate program!), I am perfectly aware of what may cause miscarriages. My deepest pregnancy cravings were for a cold Rainier and a goddamn turkey sandwich, and I avoided the turkey like the plague. But when women are told "don't eat this!" with no explanation, a lot of us get REALLY fucking tired of it and rebel. Did I rebel by chowing down on raw fish? No. I rebelled with a cooked medium steak, and occasional sips of wine/beer. "No soft cheeses" doesn't encompass the fact that 99.9% of all soft cheeses sold in the US are pasteurized, and the soft cheeses to be avoided are un-pasteurized. I had a breakdown at 7 months when I accidentally ate a dish with cotija on it, but then after reading up on it, fucking cotija is pasteurized and I didn't give the kid flippers. We're told to avoid hot dogs and bacon, but not why (nitrates/nitrites, not as a miscarriage risk). By informing women of why something is a risk and how to mitigate the risk, we (at least, I and my circle of acquaintance) are more likely to listen and respect the guidelines given.

LisaMR (#235,086)

With my first pregnancy, at the four month point I drank half a dos equis and felt normal for the first time in so many months. Having a beer at the end of the day is a ritual, albeit a small one, but getting to participate in that again in a very small way made all the other (also minor) risk aversions of pregnancy a little easier (is that cheese pasturized, wait are all those sandwiches deli meat, oh sorry there's no decaf coffee in this meeting room, who's up for sushi followed by pedicures in a poorly ventilated salon… oh wait, too bad Breeder!).

With my current pregnancy, I haven't felt the desire as much. Sure, I still steal a sip of beer here or there from my husband, but I haven't poured myself a glass. Maybe having done this before makes it less important to feel like my non-pregnant self. Maybe it was just having way worse morning sickness this go around.

Either way, I think that it's best to err on the side of sanity. If it's going to drive you more crazy to be 100% abstinent, have a damn drink. If that one half glass of wine will haunt your dreams with limb-less babies, order a Pelegrino instead. One thing we do know for sure is that maternal stress is bad for a developing fetus.

First off, it was pretty brave of you to write this article.

Secondly, I have to say, I don't think the guilt is doing you any good here. It isn't changing your action, but probably just causing stress.

Thirdly, I am kind of sick of the attitude in this country that a woman, once pregnant, is required to devote her entire life, health, energy, and body to the fetus inside her, and then to the kid for the next 18years. It is still your body and your life! It doesn't sound like you are trying to purposely hurt your baby, moderation is usually a safe guess. We still don't know what the best course of action is in any situation, so doing your best is all anyone can do!

Also, alcohol has been around a lot longer than the belief that women shouldn't drink during pregnancy…

Anne Marie@twitter (#235,089)

I don't really have much to say. Good for you for taking the time to actually research and think about it. No, you probably shouldn't make parenting decisions based on saying screw you to strangers but, yes, the fact that you're recognizing that about yourself is more than most people do.

So really I just want to say congrats to you on your future kid and I'm psyched to see this topic discussed so rationally, kindly and maturely (commenters included).

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

@Anne Marie@twitter: Troll.

By the way, "cry it out" is a very sound approach.

Otterman Empire (#224,124)

I guess I have a different perspective than many commenters here; the moment I found out that I was pregnant, I knew I wouldn't be a drinker of any sort until after the delivery.

My mother smoked (cigarettes as far as I know) during her pregnancy with me, and it has caused years of ear infections and related health problems for me. I never had a choice in the matter.

Before I even got pregnant, my husband said that he would quit drinking too, and we were epic partiers until the positive test. The first few weeks of abstaining from everything were difficult, but I found that I actualy enjoy knowing that I can relax without a glass of wine; I had thought that it was mandatory. Overall, the whole experience has been really positive because I have learned new ways, probably healthier ways, of coping that I didn't think I had the strength to do.

I am lucky in that the few sips I have taken have disagreed with me (instant heartburn?!), so it was less of a difficult choice. And I know the baby has no choice, so there's that. But that's just me. Everyone's body is different when she is pregnant–my being turned off by my previously beloved wine was my body telling me something. Others might be able to handle it just fine, and that's fine for them.

creaves@twitter (#231,970)

So pleased to see people talking rationally and supportively about this. As always, Pinners are the best. <3

@creaves@twitter this is… actually an Awl post.

twinkiecowboy (#235,093)

This was such a brave piece in light of how often people feel compelled to police pregnant women's bodies. I wanted to know, though, how did other people respond to her drinking while pregnant? She talked about her doctor friends approving but we hear so much about strangers rubbing pregnant women's bellies and asking them personal questions. I imagine it'd be difficult for a visibly pregnant woman to even order a drink in a bar without comment. Has anyone else experienced this?

@twinkiecowboy I'm childless, but the last time I had a pregnant close friend, there was one particular (mildly seedy) bar we went to now and then because it was the only place she could order a beer without people giving her death stares or actually actively intervening.

Edited to add: Her coworkers gave her endless shit about caffeine, too, despite her staunch one-soda-a-day limit.

mathnet (#27)

@twinkiecowboy My husband finds it hilarious to ask me to go to the beer distributor (we live in PA) for him. He always asks while he's in the middle of, like, fixing our house, or doing some other wonderful thing, and I know it makes him laugh, so I don't have the heart to deny him. But hoooooooooo boy, do I get dirty/funny looks. Only once have I felt compelled to say "MY HUSBAND SURE LOVES HIS BEER" or something equally dumb, and that was an extremely uncomfortable visit, but at its most benign, there is still definitely awkwardness. Which I would enjoy more if we were on vacation in another country, far, far away.

Brunhilde (#1,225)

@twinkiecowboy When I'm out to dinner with my pregnant friend, I order a glass of wine and we share it, because she can't stand the *judgement glare* when she orders. We've done this 3 times in the course of her pregnancy. What a lush, right!?!

twinkiecowboy (#235,093)

@mathnet That's hilarious. Your husband is awesome.

Claire Zulkey (#6,639)

@twinkiecowboy Thank you! So far I haven't had any blowback (except for the couple times my husband raised an eyebrow, before he felt OK about it) but I also 'pick my battles,' as it were. Coincidentally, or not, the places where I'd feel most compelled to explain myself (like a baptism party) tend to be the places where a lone drink really wouldn't feel 'worth it' anyway.

blueberry (#235,092)

Just signed up to say Whoa! The Awl needs to get out of my head. I found out I was pregnant on Christmas Day and I'm due on September 4 too! This plus the earlier article waxing nostalgic about bierocks and a bunch of other articles completely relevant to my life makes me wonder if I should cut back on my Awl time. Things are getting really personal!

I stopped drinking when I found out I was pregnant mostly because I lost all desire and taking a sip of my husband's beer would make me sick. It tasted terrible! I just never got back in the habit since then, but a glass of wine every now and then sounds delicious.

However, cutting coffee out of my life was much, much, much harder. Actually, it's never really left completely.

Congratulations BTW!

Claire Zulkey (#6,639)

@blueberry Thank you, and to you as well!

I used to work for a Fetal Alcohol Prevention program, and most of the adults and all of the children had FAS. One woman can drink the same amount during different pregnancies and the children have different effects – that is why there is no safe amount. Unlike cigarettes and marijuana, it is a teratogen – it causes unrepairable birth defects. It is also the number one cause of preventable birth defects in the country. The children and adults I worked with didn't even necessarily look different, but the social effects of FAS were debilitating. FAS is completely, 100% preventable. Come on. I can't believe this discussion is even happening. Why would you risk it and take that chance? Alcohol passes straight to the fetus, so drinking while pregnant is quite literally the same as giving your baby a drink in a bottle. Does that sound ok, too? This is not the same as nutrition or breast feeding. This is birth defects. Permanent through your child's life.

Ophelia (#75,576)

@Vanessa Klisch@facebook Did any of the people in your program have mothers who drank two drinks or fewer per week?

Kate Croy (#973)

@Ophelia The author of this article had way more than 2 drinks a week.

Ophelia (#75,576)

@katalist Right, I'm actually just curious what the threshold was for the people in her program? I didn't read the study that was recently released (someone linked to it upthread), which I think mentioned something along the lines of 2 drinks/week. Anywho, not pregnant, just curious.

@Ophelia They may have? People usually fib about things like this too, though. If they said two, it was probably four. And increasing the amount definitely increases the chances, but there is still truth to there being no safe amount. Much of the influence has to do with the timing of the drinking rather than the quantity. As in, whatever is most actively developing in the fetus in the moment that one drinks. Specifically, which part of the brain and what it's responsible for. Also, it's worth noting that the majority of the time, FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) is not technically diagnosable until 2 years of age. For anyone interested in the real-life issues of living with an FASD-affected child, I recommend the book "the broken cord" by Michael Dorris.

I should note that I think moms are subjected to way too much guilt for not being perfect while pregnant. No matter what, it seems like they're told they aren't doing it right. But this is 100% easy and preventable. COMPLETELY PREVENTABLE. I know I'm being passionate, but having worked with people trying to live with FASD because of choices that they didn't even make just broke my heart.

DrFeelGood (#14,494)

@Vanessa Klisch@facebook Thank you. I feel that the article (and comments) are a little preemptively congratulatory. As you say, FASD is a spectrum… your drinking may have effects you won't ever be able to knowingly link to drinking during pregnancy. Can you live with that possibility? That there is a problem at some point, and you were drinking some or a lot during pregnancy, could you have prevented the problem? My parents are both smokers, and I know my mom smoked some during my pregnancy. I turned out fine, but I do not think that justifies her behavior. I also don't blame her because we are all human, with our own faults and weaknesses. But come on, please don't be so blase about the whole thing.

Kate Croy (#973)

"I had 14 drinks a week while pregnant and all I got for it was a nagging sense that if I hadn't maybe my baby would've been smarter and healthier."

Moff (#28)

@katalist: The great thing is, that nagging sense shows up even if you have no drinks.

Kate Croy (#973)

@Moff Yeah, the boundless guilt and fear of fucking up an actual other person are about enough to make want to stick to having pets instead of kids. Also: episiotomies AHHAHGGH hold me mama.

mathnet (#27)

@katalist CRUNCHY ZEALOT HERE: If you go with a midwife, then your chances of episiotomy go waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down–even if you end up having to have other interventions.

shannowhamo (#226,574)

An episode of "Baby Intervention"- "Baby, we've all gathered today to tell you how much we love you and tell you we're how much less pain your mother would be in if we just gave her some fucking drugs."

scully (#10,214)

There are so many good comments on this thread that I have thumbs-upped every one of them EVEN THOUGH every time I do it, I am bumped to the bottom of the page. Yarg.

r0semarysays (#11,194)

@scully this started happening to me too, WHY!!!!!!!!

Anne Hayes@facebook (#235,114)

You know, the studies linked really do not justify two drinks a DAY. That is fricking insane. And frankly, the fact that someone could interpret the idea that a drink every once and awhile is okay, to go ahead and justify two drinks a day for several days in a row, for any period of time while pregnant, is the whole reason why women are told not to drink at all. Because "light" or "moderate" drinking is obviously open to interpretation, and some people are always going to try and justify more. Good luck with that. Motherhood is already a guilt fest, and having a disabled child myself I'm glad I at least didn't do anything I knew could cause harm, although I still sometimes wonder if it's something that I did that I didn't know was harmful.

nomorecheese (#15,517)

Um. I am going to unabashedly say that this is fucking awful. Why the hell would you write this article and publish it? Your baby hasn't even been born yet, hasn't been screened for preschool, etc – you can not tell us with any certainty that your baby will not suffer from your careless behavior. I'm also going to venture to say that you may have a drinking problem. Whatever the case may be, you need to seriously re-evaluate your priorities because motherhood is going to require you to put someone else ahead of yourself.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

@nomorecheese Go fuck yourself.

nomorecheese (#15,517)

@petejayhawk That's a really mature response. I suppose that you would like to endanger your own future child by drinking or encouraging the mother to drink? Complete irresponsibility and selfishness.

Go fuck yourself too!

@nomorecheese The reason this article exists is because of people like you.

@nomorecheese The reason this article exists is because of people like you.

Kelly Wood (#235,117)

@petejayhawk Good come-back. You should be a lawyer, with rebuttals like that.

Billyjoe (#6,579)

I seem to remember "Claire Zulkey" from web .20 . . . is she a violinist or cellist who used to post soft-porn on her site? She got me in trouble at work.

metoometoo (#230)

It's interesting how people are so passionate about anything a woman could do to potentially fuck up her child while in the womb, but it's much more taboo to discuss the myriad more obvious and visible ways that parents and society fuck children up once they've been born. It's almost like, dealing with that problem seems too impossible and overwhelming, so instead we project all that angst onto pregnant women because it's simpler and easier than seeing the bigger picture.

Kate Croy (#973)

Last.

Manda Lynn@facebook (#234,918)

@nomorecheese I am a little bit worried that you didn't get the point. In my experience, you get judged for every parenting decision you make. I wonder what kind of parent feels that they need to worry about decisions others make…

In my first class with Dr. Martha Denckla, a renowned pediatric neuroscientist, she said, "Oh, honey: if drinking a little during pregnancy was a problem, all of Europe would be retarded." The class erupted into shocked laughter. People forget that up until about 300 years ago, humans drank water, mead, ale, wine, milk and maybe some fruit juice. That's it! And they had awesome babies. Drink in moderation, according to what feels right. Mothers to be tend to have the right instincts…especially the ones who come on here with strong opinions either way. That's probably the right way for them.

DrFeelGood (#14,494)

@Emily Wright@twitter Yes, but they weren't drinking 14% ABV wines, or 6% ABV beer. They were drinking severely watered down spirits for the most part. And 300 years ago, most people were not having awesome babies; they were having a LOT of them, and hoping that a few turned out OK. How do you measure "a little"? It's a slippery slope, as this article points out. How much were europeans drinking 300 years ago? A lot or a little? Can you quantify this? There is a long history — worldwide – of congenital defects, but a very short history of understanding their causes.

lardmineski (#235,226)

Be responsible…

bdaypartycheck (#235,228)

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sorry but you failed, one sip is equal to liver failure, good job ruining a life

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