We Are Both Right

Our Two Cents: Is It Worth Saying Something to the Pregnant Mom Drinking (and Smoking)?

parenting advice

Cheers... or not. If a pregnant woman decides to drink or smoke, is it an open forum for comments? ©Jim Reilly/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne,

Usually I’m the type of person who keeps my opinions to myself, but last night while out with a group of mom friends I saw something that I wish I had spoke up about.

There’s a woman in our group of friends who is about four months pregnant. I’m not especially close with her, but I do see her when our extended circle of friends gets together every few weeks. Most of the time we take the kids to the park or meet up for lunch, but sometimes we’ll do a girls’ night out at a restaurant, etc.

Well last night we went out to dinner to celebrate two birthdays in the group and a few of the women ordered cocktails or beer — including this pregnant woman. Now I’m all for making your own decisions and obviously you would have to be living under a rock to know that drinking while pregnant is risky. But the kicker is that later on she went outside for a smoke!

When I got over my disbelief, I kept going back and forth in my mind over whether or not I should say anything. None of the other women seemed to bat an eyelash. Then again, maybe they were feeling the same hesitance as me. Should I have spoken up?

–Busting at the Seams

Amanda: In a word, no. I’m going to go ahead and assume that your friend has a brain with working cells. I’m going to assume that she has seen or heard at least one of the million news reports that says smoking while pregnant is a big no-no. And despite all of the information existing out there, study upon study upon study, news reports, PSAs and everything else, she still chose to light up. She knows the risks, she knows it’s selfish. Nothing you are going to say will change that.

If she were a closer friend I might consider talking to her at a different time, a few days after the fact, but not in an accusatory tone. I think I’d just come out and ask her if she was still actively smoking and see where the conversation went. But that’s it. I know it’s tempting, but I don’t think this is your place to play pregnancy police. And while I appreciate your concern for your friend’s unborn child, this is a matter for her. She’s a big girl, she knows what she is doing.

As for the drinking, I need a little more info before offering advice, although it would probably be along the lines of what I said above. I’m one that thinks it’s OK to have a glass of wine on occasion while pregnant. Now, you don’t say how many drinks she had or what exactly it was she was drinking (was it possible she had virgin versions of her cocktails?), so I’m going to stay out of it.

As should you.

Suzanne: It sounds like you are not the type of person who feels the need to weigh in on what’s in the grocery cart of the person ahead of you on line (and suggest that rice cakes are a healthier alternative to potato chips). Just the fact that you made it through the night without saying anything shows that you are aware of the consequences and the most likely outcome of sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong.

That said, I can feel your anxiety over this particular situation. First, there’s an unborn child who doesn’t have a say in what is going into his/her fragile body. Secondly, you probably can’t fathom why a woman carrying life would buck best practice and put her baby at risk.

And yet, for all the same reasons Amanda suggests, you might as well forget about saying anything. She is not committing a crime that is punishable or reportable to law enforcement. And no matter how gentle, subtle, or well-worded your input, it’s not likely to be the lightbulb that’s going to make this mom put out her cigarette or pass on a drink.

Our species is stubborn. We don’t like unsolicited advice. No matter how well meaning. And you were probably thinking a few steps ahead to what this woman would say when you pointed out the obvious.

So let it be. She’s going to have to make many more decisions in her child’s life in the years to come. And she will have the final say. As hard as it may be, all you can do is focus on giving the best to any children under your care and just hope for the best as far as everyone else is concerned.


What do you think? Would you have spoken up?

If you have a question that needs two opinions, send an e-mail to advice@wearebothright.com.

There’s a Reason Pregnant Bellies Don’t Fit at the Bar

no drinking during pregnancy

Yucel Tellici/stock.xchng

“Green apple or chocolate martini?” It was a few minutes after we had arrived at a holiday party at Amanda’s house in the December of 2001. Exactly one week before, I found out for the first time that I was pregnant and couldn’t wait to share the news with friends from college.

“Thanks, but I can’t drink tonight,” I stammered, as T. mixed a drink for my husband.

In the space of a second, I could see the look on Amanda’s face change from one of puzzlement to suspicion. “Why not?”

“Because I’m pregnant,” I said in a whisper. And the girlish squealing ensued.

It was strange for me to actually say those words. Of course, the “I’m pregnant” part was all brand new, and it was going to take me some time to get used to it. But even though I had stumbled on the “I can’t drink” line, the truth was that I had been practicing that one a little longer.

Three months earlier (albeit halfway across the country where Amanda wouldn’t have picked up on it), the drinking ban had been put into place. As soon as my husband and I made the conscious decision to start trying to having a baby, I had made a personal decision to cut out any and all alcoholic drinks.

It was an even exchange — prenatal vitamins in place of a glass of wine with dinner. Not as tasty, that’s for sure. But it put me at ease in other ways.

I wanted to assure that my baby had every chance of being as healthy as possible. I knew I was lucky enough to be carrying a child, and certainly didn’t want to tempt fate by drinking during pregnancy. So sipping a glass of wine every now and then just wasn’t a chance I was willing to take.

Besides, the warnings are hard to ignore. That’s why it surprised me when a co-worker at the time freely confessed to drinking beer on a regular basis during both of her previous pregnancies. The children seemed fine, but I kept wondering why she was so comfortable flying in the face of science.

That was her decision, and I had mine to make — no drinking during pregnancy, or during preconception for that matter. If I had breastfed, I probably wouldn’t have indulged during that time either — even though it’s possible to squeeze in a drink between baby’s feedings with enough time for the alcohol to leave your system.

Looking back, it wasn’t a hard resolution to keep. I substituted fruit juice mixed with seltzer in the summer when I was craving something different. But for the most part, I didn’t feel like I was missing out.

A few years later, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I intended to keep to the same promise. I passed on alcoholic drinks for the most part during the entire pre-conception period (which stretched over eighteen months) — except once a month when I needed something to soothe my nerves in the hours after yet another negative home pregnancy test.

And then there was the time when I sat face to face with the bottles of wine on the table at my brother’s engagement party — that was the closest I got to straying, feeling compelled to swish a mouthful and spit in the style of a wine tasting.

An alcoholic drink during pregnancy can be tempting, yes. But is it worth it? You tell me.

Amanda may have had a sip or two of wine during her pregnancies, but I’ve also heard of OBs telling their patients that it’s OK to have some red wine after an amnio — so I’m thinking she wasn’t crossing the line at all. (And I thought I was the only one feeling self-conscious about all my unpopular opinions!)

Drinking While Pregnant? Cheers! (To a Point.)

Sometimes, when I sit down to write for this site, and I review the topics that Suzanne and I have so carefully chosen and debated, I sigh. Because I look at the position I’ve taken. Give more thought to the opinion that I hold. And while I certainly stand by what I believe 100 percent of the time, I understand that my way of thinking on certain issues is not the popular view.

Like drinking during pregnancy.

(I promise, I am a very responsible person, despite what you may read.)

But before we dive into this, let’s be clear from the outset. When I say “drinking during pregnancy” I don’t mean shots of tequila or a slate of mixed drinks that would test the skills of the bartenders at Coyote Ugly. For me, it means a glass of wine with a meal every once in a while.

© theswedish/stock.xchng

© theswedish/stock.xchng

Research shows that an occasional drink — one or two a week — while pregnant will not harm the developing fetus, nor cause any long-term effects to the child once born. Yet still, particularly here in the U.S., women are told or at the very least peer pressured into believing that even a single glass of wine or beer is a bad idea and somehow you are a bad mother and an alcoholic if you can’t manage to abstain for nine months (longer if you jump on the wagon during preconception). And yet in Europe, they regularly drink alcohol during pregnancy, to nary a raised eyebrow.

(Did you know that French women won’t eat salads when they are pregnant? French OBs generally warn preggos to avoid raw vegetables. So if you are horrified by the sight of a pregnant woman at your neighborhood bar, imagine how a Frenchwoman feels when she sees a pregnant woman belly up to the salad bar.)

I went to a baby shower a few years ago (before I was pregnant with S.) and the mommy-to-be poured herself a decent-sized glass of wine. No one said anything to her but I saw a good amount of raised eyebrows, particularly from the older guests.

My friend and I never discussed it afterward, but I always wondered if anyone made any remarks about it that I wasn’t aware of. And it got me thinking about my own feelings about drinking during pregnancy. Up until that point, I hadn’t. (Well, not consciously anyway. I might have partaken in more than my fair share of “fun” with friends one night and then found out a week or so later that I was pregnant with my first, C. Oops.) But why hadn’t I? To be honest, it wasn’t because I personally didn’t want to — I hadn’t really given it much thought in either direction. But I think a part of me knew that along with enjoying that glass of wine, I’d be not enjoying other things — hard stares and helpful advice.

In any event, not too long after that shower, I became pregnant with our third. And on occasion, I craved red wine. And on occasion, I had some. I talked to my OB about it, and his opinion was that having a little wine was more than fine and could actually be a good thing, serving as a way to help me relax. Moderation, was the key, he told me. Knowing when to stop.

And of course, there are some women who won’t know how to stop. But chances are they aren’t debating drinking during while they are pregnant, they are actually doing it. For the 90-odd percent of us who are responsible, who understand what the word moderation means, I think we need to stop judging.

Being pregnant is a glorious, wonderful time. I never loved my body as much as I do when I’m pregnant. But it’s also hard, especially when everyone has an opinion. When all is said and done, take the approach that makes you feel the most comfortable.

Did you drink while you were pregnant? What? How much? Suzanne didn’t, but I know she doesn’t judge me.