Tuesday, August 14th, 2007
My girlfriend and I are currently trying to get pregnant. My question for you is, is it okay for her to drink in the first trimester? I have heard that this is the safe period when you can have a drink (not too much of course!) and wanted to get your take on it.
I’m expecting a child in the next few weeks. My doctor told me that it would be fine to have a glass of red wine on occasion. I’d like to know if there are any other lower-alcohol drinks you’d recommend for someone who is expecting. Many thanks!
Hey HD and Steph
There are more myths out there surrounding alcohol and pregnancy than you’ll find regarding alcohol and just about anything else. But the truth of the matter is this: Drinking any alcohol at all during pregnancy is really, really dangerous.
In 1973, doctors at the University of Washington named a pattern of physical and mental birth defects belonging to children whose mothers were alcoholics Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Their groundbreaking research (prior to this, it was pretty much believed that such birth nomalies were purely hereditary) opened the doors to worldwide studies concerning the connection between birth defects and alcohol consumption during pregnancy. It was at this time that FAS was named as the leading cause of mental retardation.
On average, FAS children are 30 IQ points below normal expectations.
So, what other harm to the baby can be caused by drinking while pregnant? Well, how about…
- Deformed bones, head and face
- Stunted growth
- Learning disabilities and lower IQ
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Behavioral and psychological problems
- Poor physical coordination
- Heart defects
- Lower birth weight
- Small head size
…to name a few.
Scary, huh? Not as scary as the plethora of misinformation out there – and a lot of it is coming from actual physicians not yet familiar with the latest research.
“So are some drinks safer than others? My doctor said I should stick to red wine.” Not at all. A 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5-ounce shot of tequila, they all contain about the same amount of ethyl alcohol. The rest is mainly water and flavoring, kids. Red wine carries a lot of health mystiques these days, but don’t be fooled: red wine is still just booze.
“Are certain times safer than others? My doctor said that it’s okay to drink during the [whatever] trimester.” No, alcohol places a baby at risk throughout the entire pregnancy:
- Many physical deformities occur primarily in the first trimester.
- Drinking during the second trimester has been listed as a cause of miscarriage.
- Small size and poor physical coordination are both results of drinking in the third trimester.
- And alcohol can interfere with brain development during all three trimesters.
“My friend drank occasionally when she was pregnant and her child looks fine.”Drinking any alcohol during pregnancy is like playing Russian Roulette with the lifelong welfare of the child. Risk for alcohol-related damage increases with each pregnancy, and can occur any time a woman drinks while pregnant.
“But I’m not an alcoholic, I just want to have an occasional drink.” FAS is the most severe result of drinking during pregnancy, but represents only a small fraction of Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) which are much more widespread. FAS is usually apparent in infancy but the problems of other FAE children often do not appear until later in life:
- FAE kids in pre-school can have abnormal facial features, small stature, experience slow development, hyperactivity, and poor physical coordination
- School-age children with FAE can experience learning problems, distractibility, poor attention, poor memory, and impulsiveness
- Teenagers show an inability to adapt and learn from experience, social immaturity, lack friendships, and tend to be early school drop-outs
- Adults with FAE experience joblessness, sexual and other criminal offenses, alcohol and drug problems, poor judgment, mental health problems, and premature death.
So what can you do to avoid these problems? Don’t drink! I know it’s much harder than it sounds, but with support from friends and family, and – most importantly – your partner (I’m looking at you, HD, I always encourage the partner to abstain as well) it can go much more smoothly.
And what’s a non-drinking couple supposed to do for fun? Well, I’m glad you asked. My good friend Natalie over at The Liquid Muse has been developing a whole line of what she’s calling Preggatinis, which are brilliant non-alcoholic concoctions specially designed for pregnant couples taking a break from alcohol.
Good luck, HD and Steph!