Would you drink alcohol during pregnancy or not?
Another week, and there's another story in the press about the effects of alcohol on your unborn child. This latest report advises abstaining from alcohol completely throughout pregnancy, but most importantly in the first few months both before and after conceiving. If you don't, you apparently risk your child being brain damaged.
I’m lucky in that I don’t actually like alcohol very much. I never have and I don’t really know why. Wine makes me feel quite sick, and although I’m partial to the odd gin and tonic every now and then, if I’m honest I’d usually prefer a soft drink. Something poncey and full of sugar, like Amé or Bottle Green cordials…
So when I found out I was pregnant (which incidentally, was four days before Christmas, so possibly the WORST time of year to find out), I immediately assumed I wouldn’t drink at all. I probably had one or two alcohol drinks per week at most before I got pregnant, so it wasn’t like there was much to give up. And to begin with, I found it quite easy to avoid alcohol - even with various unwitting family members desperately trying to force glasses of Christmas champers on me. Being the designated driver always works as a good excuse.
However, deciding not to drink wasn’t really something I felt strongly about for the health of the baby. Actually, that sounds terrible - what I mean is that deciding not to drink wasn’t something I had to worry about much because I’m naturally not a big drinker, so it seemed easy to abstain. I was vaguely aware that in the UK they suggest you only have one or two units per week if you do choose to drink but I didn’t really think much more than that.
Then I watched an Exposure programme on it, ‘When Pregnant Women Drink’ (you can watch it below) when I was about two months’ gone. And it certainly put the frighteners on me. One memorable quote was an expert saying that taking heroin or cannabis is less dangerous for your unborn baby than drinking alcohol.
I did some more digging and found out that more shockingly, in most developed countries - places like the US and Australia, women are told not to drink ANY alcohol at all while pregnant. I felt quite smug that I’d been so ‘good’ over Christmas, New Year and my birthday and decided to continue avoiding it.
But then I started to talk to friends, and family, who said they had a few drinks every now and then while pregnant and had perfectly lovely healthy children. And one day I was celebrating something and thought, god, I’m such a bore, it won’t hurt to have ONE gin and tonic. It’s SO true that forbidden fruit tastes sweeter! I shared a G&T with Oli, and did really enjoy it. And then on his birthday earlier this month, while we were at The Pig hotel, I ordered a Pimm’s. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was in a good mood and suddenly I really really fancied a Pimm’s. I drank the whole thing (one and a half units I believe) and promptly fell asleep. I woke up later feeling really groggy and horrid.
Since then I’ve had about four thimblefuls of Prosecco at people’s houses, but that’s about it. And I steer from feeling guilty about it afterwards and thinking how pathetic I am for not being able to give up booze completely for nine short months, to thinking how ridiculous everything has become these days - with every week another story about how your health is somehow adversely affected by you having a cat, wearing a bra, writing with a biro, sitting on the loo too long etc etc. (Blame squarely placed with The Daily Fail for this.)
Interestingly in my many midwife and doctor's appointments, not once has alcohol been mentioned. I've been asked several times if I know I'm meant to take folic acid but that's about it for dietary advice. (That being said, I've probably been given a leaflet. I have a lot of leaflets).
So really, this post is more of a question, because I’m genuinely interested in other people’s takes. Would you and/or did you drink during pregnancy? What are your thoughts on it?