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Drinking Alcohol during Pregnancy

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Pregnancy & Childbirth > Drinking Alcohol during Pregnancy



Worried about drinking before I knew I was pregnant

January 2007

I just found out I am pregnant. Only 5 weeks as far as I can figure out. My big worry is that a few weeks ago I had a weekend away with my girlfriends and we drank a fair share of wine and beer. Has anyone else had this experience? How did your pregnancy turn out? I am really nervous that I have done something terrible to this tiny embryo. worried


As far as I know, alcohol in the first couple of weeks of pregnancy either causes an early miscarriage or has no effect at all, an either/or situation because the embryo is in such an early stage of development. Try not to worry: I know plenty of women in your situation whose babies have all turned out fine!
Oh sweetie! LOTS of us have been in that same boat. Think about how many pregnancies are unplanned, then think about what portion of women ever drink, and do the math. If specifics help, my perfectly healthy, precocious 5-year-old was born after a night of way too much sangria in early pregnancy. (the way i felt the next day was one of the first clues that something might be up) I was freaked out too, but really, as long as you're not drinking regularly now, chances are everything will be fine. One of Many
I actually went through something similar. The baby turned out perfect! Now that you know- stay away from alcohol. You don't want your baby with FAS. anon
I had the same experience, and found out I was pregnant at 8 weeks. You are not a minority in this situation, many women have this experience. You are fine, don't worry yourself about it, you didn't do it intentionally, and it is in the past. Enjoy the memory of your time with friends it will be a while before you will be able to do it again! (: congratulations. sarah
Don't worry! I didn't know I was three weeks pregnant when I took advantage of an all-you-can-drink resort in Mexico. I am not a regular drinker, but I did it up that weekend. Once I found out I was pregnant I was worried about that weekend of debauchery... but then had to realize there was nothing I could do to change what happened. 9 months later, I had the most perfect baby girl in my arms. anon
Don't worry. I was about three weeks pregnant (and didn't know it) when I went on vacation with a large group of friends. I spent every night of that week in the hot tub drinking tom collins'. Came back home and just couldn't shake the sickness! Found out I was pregnant about a week later. I was worried, but my pregnancy proceeded normally and I had out a big, healthy boy at the end of it. He's now over 3 and has hit every milestone. He's bright and engaged and the joy of my life. Don't sweat it!
Your baby is fine. Any physician you ask will tell you this. So many women have done this in the history of the world and their babies are fine. At this point, your little baby is just busy dividing his/her little cells. The problem with drinking while pregnant comes with people who drink regularly, not the occaisional drinking binge. anon
I would like to put your mind at ease. The period from conception to your missed menstrual period, is sort of an ''all or nothing'' period of time. Generally, medications that you take or drinking alcohol will not have an effect on the embryo during those first two weeks. This is especially true during the 11 or so days after conception, because the embryonic blood supply is not connected to your blood supply before this time and therefore the ''baby'' has no exposure to the things you ingest. That all or nothing nature of the first couple of weeks means that either what a mom drinks or takes will not have an effect and the pregnancy will continue, or it will have a strong enough effect to cause a miscarriage. There isn't much a middle ground, i.e. your pregnancy will continue with a damaged fetus.

If you think about it, this makes perfect sense in evolutionary terms: things that a mother does BEFORE she knows she is pregnant (i.e. before a missed period) should NOT affect a pregnancy. Otherwise, we'd eventually never continue as a species! Of course, any medications or drugs or alcohol you ingest from this point on can have a PROFOUND effect on the developing fetus, so you need to abstain from all of those during the pregnancy.

Now, that is not to say that if you have a miscarriage, it is because you drank some beer. Miscarriages are extremely common and happen for a variety of reasons. So, please don't start blaming yourself if that happens.

I got married a little less than two weeks after I conceived, but I didn't know it (pregnancy test on my wedding day was negative). I drank quite a bit at all the events associated with the wedding over a couple of days. On top of that, before the wedding I had emergency oral surgery (and took Valium and Tylenol with Codeine), went in hot tubs, and had a number of other medications that I was worried about. I really ruminated on that and worried about it at first. After I did a little research, though, and spoke with some experts in the field, I relaxed and ended up having a healthy baby. Anon


Oh, don't worry....I drank A LOT, and did ecstasy in the first month of my pregnancy...and my son is totally fine. He's in kindergarten, is doing great, and has never had any health problems. ps...the reason I was so 'crazy' way back then...it was the end of my party phase in life..... It's no biggie! In France they tell you to cut DOWN to a glass of wine and 5 cigs a day.... anon
The same thing happened to me about 4 years ago. About a week before I found out I was about 5 weeks pregnant, I went to a bachelorette party in Vegas with friends. Unknowingly, I had some alcohol and spent time in a hot tub, sauna and steamroom (SPA). I was very worried after I found out that I was pregnant and talked to my OB about it. She asked how long I spent in the hot tub (not more than 15 min at a time over the course of 2-3 hours) and how much I had to drink (a shot during dinner). She said it should be okay and the baby's development would be monitored anyway. Of course I wasn't relieved until my daughter was born! Everything turned out ok! Talk to your OB and don't worry=) Relieved
Don't worry about it!! I had the same concern with my two pregancies, but they both turned out great. No problems, very healthy. I think you could do more harm with the worrying than anything. Try to relax and look forward to the excitement to come. Did that too
I urge you to stop worrying about the drinking in early pregnancy. My step mother drank a lot during her first trimester with my half-sister. She had no idea she was pregnant and was horrified when she thought about her first few months. (My father's an OBGYN even!)We took to calling the growing baby in her belly ET. Well, ET is a healthy, happy young woman. She graduated from Dartmouth with a double major and is now a teacher. That is to say, the drinking did not affect her at all.

I think you'd be amazed how many of us were in utero with our mothers blithely drinking (smoking even). I wouldn't advocate binge drinking, but stop worrying. And congratulations! anon


I think you are going to get a lot of responses on this one... Don't worry. I, too, went out drinking with the girls early in my pregnancy and later found out I was pregnant. I had an easy and uncomplicated pregnancy (despite being in my very late 30s) and have a wonderful little girl who's not only ahead of the curve developmentally, but also a very easygoing kid with a nice temperment.

My sister in law, who lives in New Orleans and is quite a partier, got pregnant on Mardi Gras. She had had quite a wild time leading up to her pregnancy, and since she didn't know she was pregnant, kept right on partying. She was drinking and also taking some drugs. When she finally figured out she was pregnant, she was freaked out. Her doctor said, ''It happens all the time,'' and told her that it was most important that she start taking care of herself immediately. She immediately got on the straight and narrow, and now has a healthy little boy.

I think the concern is not one-time drinking episodes, but sustained drinking throughout your pregnancy. Also, to have a healthy pregnancy, you should not worry excessively, so do yourself a favor and talk to your doctor about this. She's heard it all before, and will be able to set your mind at ease. Don't worry be happy


I wouldnt worry too much about it. I got pregnant on a whirlwin drinking binge party in Costa Rica. I drank alot and pretty much everynight until the pregnancy test came back positive. My midwife said it is very common for people to have dranken alot before knowing they are pregnant (half of pregnancies are unplanned), and when the child is in the embyonic state there isnt much that alcohol could do to it. I have a beautiful baby girl, whose developing very well, in fact she is ahead of ''the norm'' in socal and mental development. soni
My girlfriends and I were JUST talking about this yesterday. We all had the same experience and all of our children came out just fine. Don't worry. As a matter of fact I had a CT Scan with morphine IV when I was pregnant and didn't know it and my baby is just fine... he is two now. Don't worry they are tough little cookies! : - )
I did exactly the same thing when I was about a week and a half pregnant; plus I had a glass of wine with dinner several nights. My son, now 5, is perfectly fine. He hasn't even developed any of the athsma problems my husband has. I think that this happens to a lot of women. And I'm guessing that fetal alcohol syndrome happens mainly with women that continue drinking throughout much of their pregnancy, without moderation. However, because alcohol is completely optional, the doctors figure the safest thing to do is forbid it -- we don't need it, so they say just don't drink it. Karen
My husband and I celebrated some very good news with a bottle of Champagne, of which I consumed the vast majority, the very night before I figured out I was 6 weeks pregnant. Surprise! We weren't trying to conceive. And that wasn't the only alcohol I'd comsumed over the four weeks since conception. I completely freaked out. I went to my first OBGYN appointment in tears. My doctor very calmly smiled and remarked that a bottle of Champagne is how many babies come to be. Of course, she was talking about the moment of conception, but she knew the specifics of my situation and was utterly unworried. That baby is an awesome four year old boy now, who, despite being a handful, is smart as a whip and normal in every way. Please don't freak out too much about something you can't undo. anon
Oh you poor thing. Take folic acid (go to Walgreens, get a bottle of it, and ask the druggist how much.) Take prenatals. Don't drink any more, and for heaven's sake, don't touch drugs. From what I've heard, your body gives you a few weeks of ''free'' time at the beginning of a pregnancy. Probably because the embryo isn't taking that much of your blood at that time. Don't worry. IMHO you'll be fine. Have a good pg. You're not the first woman to go through this and guess what - the babies were fine! NOT DRUG BABIES though. a mom
Don't worry. My son was conceived on Thanksgiving and I was quite tipsy at the time. I wasn't trying to get pregnant and so I didn't know or think I was, and so I drank quite a lot over the holidays. I probably had at least a glass of wine each night until I found out I was pregnant (Christmas Eve) and I attended several parties and I think I was lightly 'drunk' at least twice. So, I basically drank everyday for almost a month until I discovered I was pregnant. My son is now 2.5 years old and he's thriving. He's a big boy and very physical and coordinated, and is good at sports (baseball, basketball, etc.). He's an early talker and has a big vocabulary and is very social. He is perfect. If you keep drinking throughout your pregnancy (esp. more than a drink a day), then you should worry. But don't worry about a weekend of drinking early on. Everything will be fine. This is actually quite a common occurance! Anon
Dear worried: I too had my fair share of drinks before I knew I was pregnant. I found out at 6 weeks, I'm almost 28 weeks now and everything has been wonderful. My baby is developing perfectly and my ultrasound tech even commented on his/her ''beautifully formed brain.'' In short, don't worry too much. As long as you stop drinking now and follow your provider's guidance, you and your baby should be just fine.

Babies are designed to be pretty tough in the beginning since we moms don't know they're there for a little while. Try to put your mind at ease and congratulations! BC


Your posting sounded very familiar to me! Exactly one year ago, I discovered that I was pregnant with my second child. I had just spent a girls' weekend in Las Vegas, drinking a LOT of wine and martinis the entire time, all the while carrying around tampons waiting for my period which was a few days late. Needless to say, it never came and about a week later I took a home pregnancy test and discovered that I was about five weeks pregnant as well. I had absolutely no idea. I was a bit nervous, but my OB said that I didn't need to worry because there's apparently a ''grace period'' of sorts when you're first pregnant where the baby isn't affected by the mother's alcohol consumption. My son was born in September and is PERFECTLY normal and fine and happy and adorable, so I hope that you are feeling better about it. GOOD LUCK with your pregnancy and congratulations! Don't worry! Take your pre-natals, don't drink any more wine and enjoy! Molly
Don't worry about it. Listen, if drinking so early in pregnancy was really a problem, a huge proportion of American and European babies would have birth defects. I had the same worry, but my daughter couldn't be smarter, and many of my friends say the same thing -- including some who got well and truly hammered before they knew (I just had my usual wine with dinner during those early weeks before I knew).

So early in pregnancy, the embryo is free-floating, not directly connected to your blood supply like later on. I suspect there is an evolutionary reason all the food/ smell aversions start when they do -- around the point of implantation. No one in an official capacity will tell you it's OK, because it hasn't been proven and people want to cover their butts. However, have you ever heard of a case of fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effect in a baby whose mother drank in the first few weeks but not after that point? No, and trust me, you won't. anon


We had a weekend in Napa with a lot of tasting and drinking, wine and vodka. Then I discovered that I was pregnant. I rush to the Doctor. I have a beautiful, and smart five year old girl. Don't worry. g
i feel for you! i did the same thing! i had taken a test and it was negative so we went out and drank and partied all week thinking that we would try again next month. to my surprise a week later it turned out that i really was pregnant and it was a flukey test. i was so worried but my doctor said that it happens all the time. the pregnancy was great, no complications, and i gave birth to a very healthy baby boy who is now 2 and smarter and more beautiful than ever. good luck!
Congrats on your pregnancy. Don't sweat having had some alcohol. I did as well before I knew I was pregnant...as well as going in a hot tub, taking all kinds of cold medicine for bronchitis and then nausea meds because I had no idea that my nausea was actually morning sickness! My pregnancy and child turned out just fine...and just be sure to take good care of yourself going forward. Good luck! anon
I wouldn't worry too much about it. The yolk sac doesn't even attach to the placenta until around 17 days. And noone ever really knows they're pregnant until they're at least 5-6 weeks. I had some drinks and cigarettes at about the same time, and my 2.75 y. o. is FINE. Superfine! Relax and take your pre-natals (if you're not too nauseated!) P/T doula; F/T mama expecting #2!
I was very much there during my pregnancy. I agonized for about 1/2 of my pregnancy over the fact that I had been on vacation during the 3rd and part of the 4th week (after conception) of my pregnancy and had many evenings of drinks. I was devastated to learn I was pregnant and had potentially damaged my baby. After months of agony, researching all over the internet, etc., my doctor finally noticed in my file that I had expressed a fear over what I may have done, and referred me to a substance abuse counselor for pregnant women (within Kaiser.) The counselor was obviously used to talking to women with much more serious issues, but humored me nonetheless. She called into a central clearinghouse for substance abuse while pregnant, and spoke to an expert on the issue (with me on the speaker phone) and that person told me that there was nothing to worry about, that studies had shown that the developing fetus does have some ability to ward off any ill impact, that the amount I had was not enough to worry about (and I had up to 4-5 drinks more than once) and that as long as I was no longer drinking it was fine.

I was able to relax a little after that, although it was still on my mind throughout my pregnancy. I decided I had to just let it go and move forward, that there wasn't anything I could do about it at that point except treat my growing fetus as well as I could with healthy eating etc..

Now, for maybe what you've been waiting for...My baby girl, now 16 months, is beautiful (no facial deformities :), extremely alert, very bright, hitting or exceeding all of her milestones, over-the-top healthy...she is basically pefect. (This is anon so I can brag!)

I'm sure your baby is fine. Enjoy your pregnancy and good luck to you. I hope this was helpful. Anon


I would definitely talk to your health care provider about this but don't stress out about it. I also drank a little bit before I knew I was pregnant. I was stressed about it. When I told my Genetic Counselor she kind of brushed my concern aside and said ''that happens to a lot of people, don't worry''. With that said be sure to stay off any alcohol now and be consistent w/ taking prenatal vitamins. jennifer
Hi - Congratulations! Don't sweat what you did... you did it. Give yourself a break and eat well, drink plenty of water, and take your prenatal vitamins! I was nearly 12 weeks pregnant before I found out (I had not been tracking my cycle carefully or paying full attention, so...), about a week after I returned from a vacation to Sonoma and Mendocino with my husband. We enjoyed the good food, wine and beer to be had in eth north coast, and even had a lovely post dinner glass of whiskey. I was appalled when I realized that I'd exposed my fetus to strong wine and good whiskey. but tried not to obsess about it...what's done is done attitude. I just did not drink again AT ALL during the first two trimesters. In the third trimester... closer to the end, I permitted myself a small half- glass of wine or a third of a beer on rare occasions. My daughter is a total delight. At 16 months she is funny, bright, sweet, active, strong, kind, and very very verbal. sara
I experienced a similar dilemma with my now 27-month-old daughter. When I was about 5 weeks pregnant (I didn't know til 7 weeks; it was a surprise for reasons too lengthy to go into here) I went to a concert and drank more than I had in years -- enough vodka tonics to spend the rest of the night vomiting and miserable. As you can imagine, when I found out I was pregnant I was absolutely horrified. I consulted with my doctor and a social worker specializing in Fetal Alcohol Effect. Basically, I gathered that no one could really predict the effects that that night (or the other nights of moderate beer and wine drinking) would have on the fetus. I chose to continue the pregnancy, and my daughter is now 27 months and as far as I know, healthy. I know that neurological deficits can be subtle and not immediately apparent, so of course a part of me always worries. But so far she's showing no adverse effects and is quite active and bright, and has hit all the usual developmental milestones right on schedule. (She does have oddly shaped toenails and we always joke that they're the legacy of that wild night...) Anon

Do European women give up drinking?

January 2004

I am currently pregnant with my second, and just as with my first, I am missing wine with dinner. I was so careful in my first pregnancy to avoid alcohol altogether, except for a very occasional sip. I always felt, though, and still do, that the prevailing no-amount-is-safe orthodoxy in this country is a little extreme, and probably inaccurate. I know that we have a number of European women in this network, and I would like to ask them about how drinking and pregnancy are viewed in Europe. I am especially curious about France and Italy where wine is so much a part of the dining experience. Do women in France and/or Italy stop drinking altogether when they get pregnant? Or do they continue to drink a glass of wine with dinner? What do French/Italian doctors and midwives tell their patients about drinking wine (or other alcohol) during pregnancy? How do French and Italian women view the no-alcohol-at-all approach in the U.S? Any French femmes out there with views to share?


I am an American who spent her first pregnancy in Paris. My OB was an American, though she had been there for quite a while. In my experience, the ''no-amount-is-safe orthodoxy'' you described is particularly American. At restaurants, waiters would be routinely surprised, even shocked, when I would pass on having a glass of wine, even when I was visibly (very visibly!) pregnant. In fact, a few times my OB even directed me to have a glass! During that pregnancy I drank wine fairly often (a couple of glasses a week? My memory is rusty), but I did not drink hard alcohol nor did I drink during the first trimester (but that part is just personal superstition, not based on medical evidence). I'm now pregnant again (in the Bay Area this time) and, although my opinion on the! subject hasn't changed, I've found that I drink less -- though it may simply be because we go out to dinner less frequently!
I am not a European mother, but I have been in the health information field for several years and I can tell you this: no health education or prenatal care expert will go on the record saying that any amount of alcohol during pregnancy is okay. Alcoholism is such a problem, and the effects of binge drinking so devastating, that the safe public health message is to abstain completely. No one knows what a ''safe'' amount of alcohol is either, as scientists are loathe to run those kinds of studies on pregnant women, for obvious reasons. Privately, you might get your obstetrician to say that a drink or two in the last trimester is okay, or don't worry about that Tom Collins you drank before you knew you were pregnant. Probably there is a big c! ultural difference in the approach to alcohol in pregnancy, between here and Europe, but it is based on true concern about problems caused by alcohol abuse in pregnancy. a health writer
I'm neither from Italy or France, but from Spain, where the wine culture is also very extended. The tendency I've seen while visiting pregnant and have heard from friends who leave there is that, in general, the attitude it more relaxed with regards to wine and other alcoholic beverages. I think the believe is that as long as it's not in excess and accompanied by food it won't harm the baby and it may help the future mom!
While I cannot give you the French view, here is my personal European perspective. I am German and spent the first few months of my pregnancy over there. ! ; I asked my very experienced OB/GYN (he's been caring for pregnant women for about 30 years) about alcohol. He thinks that there is no evidence that the occasional glass of wine harms the baby. His general recommendation about nutrition was to eat/drink what you really crave, and to leave out anything that you have to force yourself to take - with the following precautions as far as alcohol is concerned:

1. No regular drinking (i.e. every single day).

2. No binge drinking (i.e. having quite a few drinks in one session).

3. Not hard liquor; stick to wine or beer.

Having said that, a German friend of mine strongly craved wine throughout part of her pregnancy, and had a small glass of wine almost every night over dinner for quite a few weeks (I believe this must have been in the second trimester). Her little boy is gorgeous and perfectly healthy. I also have a friend who had a hard time calming down! and going to sleep during pregnancy. She had a glass of beer virtually every night before going to bed, deciding that sleepless nights or medication would be more harmful to the baby than the beer (her baby is also bright and healthy).

Most of my European friends probably went the moderate route I took. I cut back on my 'wine every night with dinner' habit but continued to have the occasional glass throughout my pregnancy. It's a very personal decision, and only you can decide what you are comfortable with. Whatever you choose, though, don't let others make you feel guilty!! Many women around the world drink some wine during pregnancy and have perfectly healthy babies. You clearly care, and you'll find the right middle ground that works for you and your baby.


Having just reviewed some of the literature on the effects of alcohol during pregnancy for the pediatric theory class I teach to nurse practitioners students, I would have to say that drinking during pregnancy is a very bad idea. They are still studying this issue and there may be periods of increased susceptibility, or genetic susceptibility, but they don't know enough to say how these variations affect the fetus. There was an article about this research in the NYT a few months back. You might want to go back and read it. I was surprised to learn how small amounts of alcohol can have subtle, but nasty, effects on some fetuses, see citation below:

''Adverse behavioral effects in children exposed prenatally to risk levels as well as low and moderate levels of alcohol have been reported by many researchers. Neonatally, habituation to stimuli (lessening of response to repetitive stimuli) was most affected and at 8 months, significant effects were observed by using! the Bayley Mental Developmental Index and Pyschomotor Developmental Index scales (global scales of infant behavioral functioning). 17 Furthermore, infants have longer reaction times when exposed prenatally to low to moderate levels of alcohol. 18....These findings suggest that alcohol teratogenesis can affect academic and social functioning even with prenatal alcohol exposure at social drinking levels.''

Sokol, Robert J. MD. Delaney-Black, Virginia MD, MPH. Nordstrom, Beth PhD. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. JAMA. 290(22):2996- 2999, December 10, 2003

''Fetal alcohol exposure (even at ''social drinking'' levels) is associated with developmental difficulties in adolescence that are consistent with problems seen earlier in life. Clinicians should understand the potential role prenatal alcohol exposure plays in behavioral and cognitive problems'' J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Phsychiatry, 1997, 36(9):1187-1194.


I'm not European (sorry!) but I am an epidemiologist and toxicologist. We obsess about finding the lower limit of toxicity/effect. Yes the research says that one drink a day is within the acceptable limits but we are notoriously poor at measuring things in people who vary so greatly. Believe me, the epidemiology is not that good. I say, why take a chance? that is your child. Buy some pomagranate juice or the best grape juice you can find and get some peace of mind.
Hi! I'm French, just returned to France after a year in Berkeley. I've never stopped drinking a little wine with dinner during my 3 pregnancies, and I felt OK with that. Important for me was not to drink without a meal, no strong alcohol, only wine (French wines have less alcohol that Californian wines)a! nd never more that one small glass. I was a little more careful when nursing my baby than when I was pregnant.

I think the no-alcohol rule is reasonable, but I don't feel like being reasonable all the time, it's important to be happy !


As an American mom who enjoys a glass of wine with dinner -- or two ... or even three ;^) -- as much as any of those bon vivant French femmes out there, here's my unofficial & personal opinion for which the Berkeley Parents Network cannot be held legally responsible or liable: Hold off until after the first trimester, then go ahead & uncork that lovely merlot & sip in moderation. Since you'll only be having one small glass with dinner, do consider treating yourself & upgrading to a finer-than-usual vintage. I did do a bit of research on the wine & pregnancy issue. It's hard to find information on this since doctors, nurses, midwives, & publishers of pregnancy information *have* to stick to the ''no amount is safe during pregnancy'' orthodoxy for legal as well as professional reasons. Since nobody knows the exact point at which alcohol consumption crosses the line from harmless to posing a hazard to the baby's development, it's better to err on the side of caution & try to avoid negative outcomes & the accompanying potential for lawsuits. However, it really *is* better to avoid alcohol & other potentially harmful environmental factors (paint fumes, dangerous falls, serious illnesses, etc.) during the first trimester, because that's when the baby's central nervous system & other vital organs begin developing. Those four margaritas you quaffed before you knew you were pregnant are probably okay though (as long as this isn't a normal habit), since humans are pretty resilient & it takes a week or so for the egg to implant in your uterus & begin sharing your blood supply.

You can also find more honest & open perspectives on email newsgroups like this one & online message boards hosted by medical & women's Web sites.


I got pregnant while we were traveling in Italy in 2001. We had friends in Milan who arranged for me to visit their OB, and it was very interesting. He scoffed at the idea of having to give up wine, and said that a glass at lunch or dinner was fine. However, he was very concerned that I understand the widespread problem of toxiplasmosis in Italy, due to the number of feral cats in the fields where produce was growing. He told me to absolutely avoid rare meats and uncooked vegetables--no salad! (He also had a very fancy ultrasound machine with two viewing screens, so that my husband could watch the results sitting at a desk rather than leaning over me at the examining table. And he gave us a video of the ultrasound! But it was in the European video format, so we never watched it.)
Here's an affirmative response re: alcohol while pregnant. In both my pregnancies, I had episodes of strong early contractions, and guess what? My doctors (two different practices) both times suggested that I lie down and have a glass of wine or two. Of course I was very apprehensive about this. But they assured me that it was safe and might very well help slow down the contractions. In both cases, I was past the first trimester, and in both cases they also urged me to make sure that I was well-hydrated. So I think it's safe within reason, but I should also clarify that I never had more than a glass or so of wine a week. My kids show no ill effects (and neither was born early).
I'm sure you will get lots of comments on this one! Wine has been an important mutual interest for my husband and I for more than 20 years ! (wine groups, vacations to wine regions, collecting, etc.). During my first pregnancy, I had maybe 3-4 SIPS of wine the entire pregnancy. My second pregnancy I had a heart to heart with my OB (tops in the field) and asked whether it would be truly harmful if I occasionally had a 1/2 glass of wine with dinner. My OB said that her insurance wouldn't allow her to say it was okay, but in fact especially after the first trimester, a little wine with dinner wasn't going to do any harm. A pediatric MD friend of mine agreed. My European friends say that their doctors allow up to TWO GLASSES per day!! Personally, I was very happy to be able to have a half glass now and then. It certainly added to my quality of life during my pregnancy and while I undertand the dangers of fetal alchohol syndrome - its beyond belief that an occassional glass of wine with food after the first trimester could do harm. The syndrome w! as associated with alcoholic or heavy drinking women but given that a link was made between alcohol and birth issues, the medical community (really, the insurance companies) began preaching a ''zero tolerance'' rule. On the other hand, I did completely give up shellfish during my pregnancies!! By the way, both of my children were born totally healthy!
I stayed away from absolutely everything when I was pregnant the first time. However, when I went into early labor, I was given a combination of drugs to stop the labor that were horrible. When the same thing happened with my second pregnancy, my new O.B. told me to go home and drink a glass of wine. I was surprised, and she pointed out that the glass of wine was far less harmful to the baby than the combination of drugs I had been given to stop labor the last time. I continued to drink a glass of wine, or a beer, almost daily for the rest of my pregnancy, which not only prevented my early labor, but also tasted good, too! BTW, my babies were both over 8 pounds, and as healthy as could be. I would say that certainly in your last trimester, there is no medical reason w! hy you can not have a glass of wine here and there. For the record, ask you O.B. Mine (who is very well respected) said it was fine.
My wonderful OB told me that I could have a drink a day, more or less, when I told him I missed my after-work glass of wine or beer. Both my sons are big, bright, handsome fellows. I didn't have a drink every day, but many days I did have one. I suppose no alcohol is a good goal, but the level of puritanism now tied to pregnancy is sort of out of hand, IMHO. Use your noggin -- that's all it is.
I found the attitude to drinking while pregnant in this country to be a bit silly. I am British and the general consensus in the UK is that it is perfectly fine to have a few glasses of wine per week, but o! f course, that binge drinking should be avoided. While I was pregnant I encountered women here who were rude enough to criticise me when I drank in public. I find this very offensive, and puzzling too, given that many of the same women were perfectly happy to take drugs during childbirth! Incidentally, I gave birth to a very healthy nine pound baby, so I say go ahead and enjoy your glass of wine!
Here's a voice from Italy. Our doctors recommend moderation with alcohol, however an occasional glass a of wine at meals is OK. I was living in Scotland when I got pregnant and there the rule was maximum 1 unit of alcohol per day (1 unit= a glass of wine or a pint of beer!). It always seemed like a lot of alcohol to me and since it didn't appeal to me while pregnant I avoided it altogether for the first trimester, but I had a half a glass of wine a few times during the rest of the pregnancy.
While I was pregnant I had a pregnancy book from the U.S., Canada and France. Interestingly they said different things about alcohol. The U.S. book recommended to completely stop drinking alcohol, the Canadian book said that once in a while wine was fine and the French book suggested that one glass of wine a day is fine but to watch out for hard liquor. So I made up my own rule of one glass of wine a day on the weekend only.
Both my children were born in Europe - one in Switzerland, the other in Belgium - where the extreme precautions taken in America are viewed as exactly that. Of course I asked my OB/GYN in both countries about wine during pregnancy (and hair coloring as well - go ahead, but perh! aps wait until after the first trimester) and was told to enjoy a glass of wine, if I wished, with my dinner. As long as I was in otherwise good health and the pregnancy was going well, there were no major precautions given (obviously a glass of wine is different than a gin and tonic - use your judgement!). No raw fish, no soft cheeses (Brie and the like) - and that was it (one will often see French and Belgian women enjoying Steak Americaine/Steak Tartare, a popular dish consisting of finely minced raw steak mixed with raw egg and capers - a health nightmare for us cautious Americans!!!). Take my doctors' advice and enjoy your glass of wine - of course stop at one, and drink a glass of water with it perhaps, but there is no reason to avoid it completely. In Denmark they might tell you red wine is good for your breastmilk; in Belgium, dark beer! I enjoyed a glass of wine when I felt like it and both my children were b! orn healthy and enormous. Be prudent about your consumption and enjoy your pregnancy!!!!
my American-born cousin who has lived in Italy all her adult life says beer is great for breast milk production and they believe it helps with colic. For pregnancy she said you don't want to drown the baby but a glass or so of wine is considered normal in her region, she lives in the town of Perugia (1 or 2 glasses of wine may in fact be considered none at all.) I am not European but have several friends and family members who are, and I did drink occasionally during my pregnancy. I don't think I felt like it in the first trimester, but after that I would have a half glass of wine occasionally and on a handful of occasions had a full glass. A good friend of mine is European and is now the head of the pediatric clinical education program at Cornell University, as well as the mother of two children. Her opinion is that drinking in moderation is absolutely fine. My daughter was 9 plus pounds and was completely healthy at birth, and she's now 19 months and has met every developmental milestone early. The thing that I found surprising was that even after you have the baby the sanctimonious attitude continues. Although there have ! been no reliable studies showing that moderate drinking has a negative impact on breastfed babies, and even a few studies that show the opposite, you will read in many U.S. baby books that you should not drink ANYTHING while breastfeeding. Once again, I have drunk in moderation since having our daughter, who is still breastfed, and I have not noticed any impact on her. A mom who believes in everything in moderation
When my sister-in-law was pregnant in France, she was told to limit herself to a glass of wine with meals, no more than 2 cups of coffee, and no more than 5 cigarettes. Recommendations for baby care are different too. Those recomendations have a cultural basis, not just a scientific one. In all probability, the greatest health risk to drinking an occasional glass of wine during pregnancy is that someone might see you drinking it and attack you. Still, I w! anted to mention the information about smoking, since I suspect many people in this area would have a very different reaction to a pregnant woman smoking 5 cigarettes/day. Jennifer
I've also read the NYT article and other reports on the latest research on alcohol and pregnancy. It's reported that alcohol, even a very small amount, can actually cause more damage in the baby's brain than drugs. If you wouldn't do drugs ''occasionally'' or ''just a small amount'' while you're pregnant, you certainly wouldn't want to drink alcohol either. It's probably better to be on the safe side and not drink, for just 9 months. Chris
Regardless of what doctors here or in Europe advise, they can't guarantee everything that goes on inside our bodies. Ultimately, we are responsible for our bodies and their intake. Please ask you! rself if you want to risk guilt, if something goes wrong and live with the feeling that something may not have happened "if only you did something differently". I'm actually not much of a disciplined person myself, but when I was pregnant I considered it an honor and chose to change my nutrition from one day to the next (in practice of learning how to serve my baby's needs - not a bad time to start) and as soon as I had my entire body back to myself, I went back to wine, beer, french fries and the occasional junk food. (I guess, it also helped in just gaining 30+ lbs instead of 50-60). I just knew I had given it my best intentions and the rest was up to fate - I was at peace with that. another European mom
I appreciate the diversity of opinions expressed regarding drinking while pregnant. I am concerned that in the responses it would seem that the main danger to exposing a fetu! s to alcohol is fetal alcohol syndrome which may sound extreme to folks who do not have a great deal of information. There are many other possible devestating outcomes: in my family of origin, one of my siblings ended up with the condition of hydrocephalus which translates to a whole variety of health problems, not the least of which is life long developmental disability. Was this due to my mother's drinking while pregnant? While I cannot say for sure, there is much evidence (both anecdotal and from medical professionals)to suggest that the drinking was a primary cause. This has impacted our family immeasurably, both in direct ways (the life long care for my sibling, for instance) as well as the less tangible ground swells of unspoken guilt and blame.

When I was pregnant, I read the literature carefully and determined that a very few glasses of wine in my final trimester would be acceptable. My baby is healthy a! nd fine- but I think it is imperative that women know as much as possible about the dangers- and that for those nine months, what we don't know (and after reading the variety of responses, it is clear that we do not know definitivly)can have devastating effects. I would urge- no matter what evidence you have from other cultures- that you make a glass of wine the rare exception until your body is no longer the nest of the growing baby. anon


Partner Won't Give up Alcohol

July 1999

I am currently 6 months pregnant and would like to receive advice from others who might have had similar experience.

I am having problems dealing with my husband's drinking. There have been other issues come up, but I feel that this may be the underlying problem. He had stated that he would not drink once I became pregnant, yet it has not happened yet. And now I seem to be more sensitive to it since I am not drinking. Before I became pregnant we would often have wine with dinner, or go out occassionally. It has now become a nightly occurance which is starting to concern me.

I believe that this would not bother me nearly as much if I weren't pregnant, however, I often feel unsure of how things will be after the baby is born. And, from previous experience I know that asking him not to drink will not help. He has to do this on his own without my nagging.

My guess is that the lack of sleep, and upset emotions I have had over this is not good for the baby. There are no other problems, and over all my husband is very supportive, but things that might not otherwise be an issue become one if he has been drinking. And, I have found that the smell alone can be such an unpleasant factor. Any advice would be appreciated.


My youngest child's father is an alcoholic in recovery, so I wanted to respond to the email about "Dealing with husband's drinking". It is difficult to "diagnose" a person as an alcoholic, or as "having a drinking problem" with as little to go on as is in your email, but some of the things that you wrote rang some bells with me:

1. what was apparently occaisional, "social" drinking becoming a nightly habit.

2. His promising not to drink while you're pregnant, and going back on that promise

3. "things that might not otherwise be an issue become one if he has been drinking."

4. your worry that he has a drinking problem. Sometimes we are just paranoid, but usually our instincts are right on. And if his drinking bothers you, even if he's not an alcoholic, there is a problem there for both of you.

I have several pieces of advice:

1.talk to a UC Care Services counselor if you work in the UC system (they are very good) or to a mental health care professional or your family doctor to discuss alcoholism/substance abuse in general and your feelings about your husband in particular to get professional advice and more information, and perhaps some referrals.

2.Learn as much as you can about alcoholism by attending some open AA meetings, by attending Alanon meetings and by reading some of the Alanon and AA literature and other literature about alcohol abuse. Literature is available in the Berkeley Public Libraries. Much of the AA and Alanon literature has real-life stories that may be similar enough to your situation to enable you to see what is (or isn't) going on.

3. I think that Alanon is the best resource for dealing with a drinking problem in a friend or relative, and your reactions to that problem. Everybody in Alanon has "been there" and can offer support in dealing with an alcoholic situation, and the alanon program teaches effective tools for dealing with it.


Please do not discount your concerns over your husband's drinking as part'n'parcel of pregnancy sensitivity. You would not be concerned if there was not a REAL problem here.

That said...you are correct that asking him to stop or making demands is not the answer.

I've been there I know. My first concerns over my husbands drinking came to being around the time I was pregnant with our first child. By the time our son was three the alcohol abuse had progressed to nightly nastyness and much verbal abuse. At that time I did the best thing I have ever done for myself... my child and my husband. I started to regularly attend Al Anon meetings. There I learned how to be a good parent to my son and how to deal with my husbands drinking and to figure out how to make healthy choices for myself and my son. About a year after I started to regularly go to meetings (I told my husband it was because my father was a drinker) my husband became so uncomfortable with his drinking that he hit bottom and joined AA. It is about 10 years later and we have a wonderful marriage and a second son. Please don't discount your your feelings. They are real. Al Anon is free. Check it out. There is a meeting on Campus in the Basement of University Hall Wednesday's at noon - or call 528-4379 or 276-2270 for more info on meeting times and locations. Signed, a friend!


Here are a few observations from what I've learned from books and therapists after growing up in an alcoholic family. * The drinker won't stop drinking unless s/he sees it as a problem and wants to. * There are resources to help you individually, or to help you find ways to talk about this with your husband, for instance, Al-Anon. If you're associated with UCB, CARE Services provides free counceling for faculty and staff. There are excellent resources for students, too. * Independent of whether your husband can or will stop drinking, for the health and happiness of you and your child, it may be helpful for you to identify what are your issues and what's your bottom line (with help, hopefully). My heart goes out to you -- good luck!
Try going to some Alanon meetings to see if that strikes a cord for you. It can help you deal with the questions your husband's drinking poses, and will help you decide what you're willing to deal with and what limits you want to set. Try several groups at different locations, since they have different "tones" and different kinds of people as members. Alanon helped me alot; I also liked CODA (Codependents Anonymous).

Also look at Claude Steiner's book Games Alcoholics Play; it's a nice, easy to read book that can help you see what's going on more clearly.


Although my own situation has been different from yours, I felt I had to reply. My husband has had substance abuse problems and/or alcoholic tendencies the entire time I've known him, so I'm pretty familiar with the stresses involved in your circumstances. And though he didn't acknowledge himself as an alcoholic from the start, I knew there were very serious issues at play. When you yourself are drinking (even if it's slightly more moderately) it's hard to have productive discussion with your mate about his drinking. When my husband wanted us to get pregnant I was very unsure of how his drinking would affect our lives as a family and so I refused unless he were to completely give up drinking. To my astonishment, he felt this was a reasonable request and suffered through the withdrawal on his own. He never professional counseling or AA, but he did have a support network of sorts. He maintained sobriety for over 2 years. Then he convinced himself and me that he could handle it now, and I made the reluctant agreement to "give it a try". You see, I really wanted him to be OK, and sometimes it's nice to share a bottle of wine, etc. He said if it wasn't working out then he would stop. Well, in my opinion it was terrible almost immediately, and he didn't stop for quite some time. Last month, and just about a year later, I told him that I wanted to move out and seek a formal seperation. He was quite taken aback by the severity of my mood and when pressed for things he could do to prevent me going (and taking away our child) the top of my list was to quit drinking - and this time FOREVER. Well, to make a long story a little shorter, I'm still here, he's sober, and we're tentatively planning to get pregnant again.

Alcoholism is terribly difficult to deal with. It's unclear from your message whether your husband fits in this category or not. What I can say, is that if he continues to do something self destructive against the expressed wishes of his pregnant wife, he's clearly under the power of the drug and is using it as a means to cope. This is exactly my husband's problem - he lacks other self-caretaking strategies and always has resorted to illicit substances to control his powerful emotions. It doesn't work, and it only becomes more ingrained. I urge you to seek professional help and don't be too shy about using the sort of strong-arm tactics I have had to use. You still have enough time before the baby comes to try to resolve this somewhat - this problem and a newborn will be way too much to handle. Best of luck!


Moderate drinking is healthful. In 8/10 of the world, one or two glasses of wine a night is moderate drinking. If you can not tolerate this behavior in your husband, is it his responsibility alone to rectify the situation? Perhaps you must compromise, say one night wine, one night none. Alas, neo-prohibitionism is common nowadays.
How much is he drinking? Personally I consider wine with dinner or a beer or two in the evening to be harmless and maybe healthy. If that's the sort of drinking you are talking about, then I don't think it's too terrible. I indulged in a glass of wine now and then when I was pregnant with no ill effects, and I think it can be very beneficial. I have a couple friends who were SO careful not to drink at all while pregnant that they, in my opinion, created a lot of unnecessary anxiety for themselves. On the other hand, I do acknowledge that many women feel it is very important not to drink at all while pregnant and I respect that. Some of my friends who have given up drinking have also asked their partners to do the same. "Since I have to quit, will you quit too?" If that's important to you, I think it's a reasonable request.
In a perfect world, you are your husband would share child care responsibilities. But with your concerns, I'd say the most important thing to remember is your child's safety. If you have any doubts about whether the child will be safe with him (say in terms of driving or watching the child when it is very young and dependant), don't leave them alone, even if it means you are carrying an unfair amount of the work. This can be a problem whether he is an alcoholic or not.

On the plus side, my husband is an alcoholic and had some problems with it when we were first married (we were pretty young at the time.) After a drunken driving arrest, he took it seriously and begin trying to stop. He slipped a few times early on, but hasn't taken a drink in many years and doesn't seem to feel any temptation. He went to one AA meeting and was very self-conscious there, and basically did it on his own after that. So there is hope.


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