One little drink can’t hurt your baby, right? New guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics say drinking and pregnancy do not go together in any amount.
There you are, comfy on the couch, a plate of pretty treats perched on your round belly. A friend offers you a glass of wine to join in the merriment. Reaching for the glass, your mind wonders if you should or not. Is one little glass going to do any harm? What about drinking and pregnancy? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), you should say, “No.”Recently released new guidelines from the AAP say no amount of alcohol is considered “safe” for drinking and pregnancy. The report, published in the journal Pediatrics states “prenatal exposure to alcohol is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities in children.”
“Research suggest that the smartest choice for women who are pregnant is to just abstain from alcohol completely,” says Janet F. Williams, M.D., one of the report’s lead authors. The new guidelines were based on study and survey data.
“Even though fetal alcohol syndrome spectrum disorders are the most commonly identifiable causes of developmental delays and intellectual disabilities, they remain significantly under-recognized,” says Williams. It’s true — a sort of ambivalence about alcohol in pregnancy has filled popular culture in some arenas.
But alcohol consumption in pregnancy is serious for the array of fetal alcohol syndrome spectrum disorders (FASD) that can accompany it. Doctors have discovered a wide range of disorders both lifelong and irreversible from significant disorders to mild learning disabilities. Basically, when you drink in pregnancy, the same amount of alcohol that goes into your blood also goes into your baby’s blood, passing to him quickly through the umbilical cord.
But wait a minute. Haven’t women been told for years that a glass of wine once in a while won’t cause any harm? Or that drinking in pregnancy — like one beer or so — in the third trimester is OK? The sticky point is defining “once in a while.” For some, “once in a while” may be a glass of wine or a beer once or twice a year. For others, “once in a while” might mean a few drinks in a month, or week. And if doctors can’t determine with certainty a safe amount of alcohol based upon a wide range of metabolisms, it stands to reason they also can’t determine the tipping point at which “one more drink” becomes too much.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have long advised that when it comes to alcohol and pregnancy, abstinence is best, and the AAP now joins in advocating for complete avoidance of alcohol when growing a baby.
But … I didn’t know I was pregnant!
What about those first few weeks of partying when you didn’t know you were pregnant? The March of Dimes says chances are it won’t harm your baby. But as soon as you know you’re expecting, commit to a pregnancy free of alcohol. Avoid parties and bars where drinking is going on, and let your family and friends know they can help by being courteous around you.
Plenty of women lose an interest in alcohol in pregnancy, but if you’re not one of them and you have a problem stopping, talk to your health provider. You will need support to get through the months ahead safely for your developing little one.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Edmonton and Area Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Network.