We Are Both Right

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

no drinking during pregnancy

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“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.