Drinking Alcohol during Pregnancy
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Drinking Alcohol during Pregnancy
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.
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
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
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! (:
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.
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.
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
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.
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....
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
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!
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.
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.
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
And that wasn't the only alcohol I'd comsumed over the four weeks since
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
1. No regular drinking (i.e. every single day).
2. No binge drinking (i.e. having quite a few drinks in one
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
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
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
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
have a few glasses of wine per week, but o! f course, that binge drinking
be avoided. While I was pregnant I encountered
women here who were rude enough to criticise me when I drank in public.
find this very offensive, and puzzling too, given that many of the
were perfectly happy to take drugs during childbirth!
Incidentally, I gave birth to a very healthy nine pound baby, so I say
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!).
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
2. His promising not to drink while you're pregnant, and going back on
3. "things that might not otherwise be an issue become one if he has been
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
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
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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