A new study on the effects of drinking during pregnancy is making waves among doctors, researchers and parents. The current recommendations in the United States indicate that any amount of alcohol ingestion increases the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Despite the fact that the majority of women in Europe consume alcohol in moderation during pregnancy, women in the United States are currently told that no amount of alcohol is proven safe during pregnancy.
In a study conducted in 1995 the incidences of FAS were over twenty times higher in the United States than in European countries. Why is it that in a country where alcohol is banned there are so many more incidences of FAS than in places where it is recommended to be consumed only in moderation?
If you’ve ever dieted and “fallen off the wagon” you’ve had that YOLO (You Only Live Once) moment when the seal has been broken on the donut package and you “accidentally” eat one. If you’ve already done that, what’s one more? Or two? Or three? The same thinking is likely at play for those mothers who have a drink. If they were told any amount of alcohol is unsafe, what’s the difference between one drink and four? If they’ve already done it one night, what’s one, two, or five more?
Many women, myself included, are told, “Why take the risk? Can’t you go without alcohol for nine months?” Of course, they are also often told the same thing while breastfeeding, which extends the amount of time a woman is forbidden from ingesting alcohol for weeks, months and sometimes years.
Recently a study was conducted by the British Medical Journal which recommended that women in the United Kingdom be told to totally abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. The researchers write:
No advisory body in England and Wales gives a clear recommendation to abstain from alcohol in pregnancy. The Department of Health recommends that pregnant women should avoid alcohol but undermines the advice by giving an apparently “safe” level for alcohol in pregnancy: that if a woman “chooses to drink” she should drink no more four units a week. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) emphasises avoiding drinking alcohol in the ﬁrst three months of pregnancy because of an association with miscarriage. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists states that small amounts of alcohol have not been shown to be harmful.
A fellow researcher decided to troll the recommendations, sarcastically recommending that women not be allowed to go to the movies while pregnant. Karsten Juhl Jørgensen, a senior researcher from Copenhagen, writes:
Going to the movies a few times during pregnancy may seem harmless. But it involves spending time in traffic to get there. The serious harms of spending time in traffic is well documented, also for fetuses, and there is no safe lower limit of exposure. While there, to my knowledge, is no direct evidence that the small amount of exposure to trafic [sic] on the way to the movies is harmful to pregnant women or fetuses, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and there is plenty of indirect evidence, in particular from members of the opposite sex in the same age range as the soon-to-be mother. As going to the movies is not a necessary activity, we need to develop guidelines explaining the risks of moviegoing to pregnant women and advise strongly against any such activity. Even a very small risk is not worth taking when the circumstances are that the activity is not absolutely necessary, Think of the children!
Comment below: Do you think women should totally abstain from alcohol during pregnancy?