How to stave off questions about drinking while pregnant

Guest post by Gillie Easdon

I was at a party. I was pregnant. Someone handed me a half glass of wine, and I drank it. And there it was — the crack of the whip glare. At first I thought I was projecting (my rule was one-ish on a full stomach, with lots of water, to be totally honest) so I turned to the glarer, a friend of mine, who was already a mom.

“You didn’t drink when you were pregnant, did you?”
“No,” her tone was short and sharp.

I did not have another alcoholic beverage in a large social gathering again while pregnant. Not because I thought it was wrong, but because it simply was not worth the hassle. I wanted to enjoy that glass of wine or beer thoroughly, when I chose to have it. I did my research. I had made my decision.

There are many hot topics with pregnancy. Alcohol, caffeine, home births, hospitals, the placenta, epidurals, caesarians…blah blah blah. You name it — a pregnant woman’s body is everybody’s business. Coping with this can prove more tiring than growing a little foot, a little brain, a precious little spine.

As a rule, I don’t lie. As a fact, I can’t lie (head on collision poker face), so the two kind of work well together. Besides, if I am lying about what I am doing, how good could I possibly be feeling about the choice I made?

This is what I did to avoid waddling around with guns blazing all the time, so my body could focus on the real heart and meat of my pregnancy. May it serve someone else well too.

Person who is not you: How could you have a single drop of alcohol?
You: I like your sweater.
Person who is not you: Are you having caffeine?
You: Did you get your hair cut?
Person who is not you: Are you going to use a pacifier?
You: How is your little Bobby doing?
Person who is not you: Are you going to have a home or hospital birth?
You: That bracelet really suits the shape of your wrist!

Remember, people love to talk about themselves, and frankly it is nice to talk about something other than your pregnancy, so it works for everybody. Go team bebe!

Comments on How to stave off questions about drinking while pregnant

  1. It has only been very recent that I have allowed a single drop of alcohol, I am about 6mos along and this is my first child. I think if you are to have any sort of alcoholic beverage that it should be organic. I have had a two glasses of wine and a literal cup of beer. For the beer I was just more curious than anything. I read an few articles that linked beer to breast milk and it’s production. Before I was waking up with just a little dried up milk but actually after having this single cup of beer (It’s been a week) my breast milk has started to flow a lot more leaving a soppy bra. Now that I slightly regret my decision I am also find it interesting that beer possibly can cause milk production.

    Before doing this I must add I did speak to my midwife and a few folks that are in the health care industry. Alcohol even a little may not be for everyone but for me once in a while a little organic glass of wine or a actual literal cup of beer is nice.

  2. I’ve been craving a beer during my pregnancy. Although my friends have been saying it’s okay to have a glass of wine or a beer once a week, I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. I guess I’m being super paranoid. I know if something is wrong with the baby, I would beat myself up over that one beer, even though I know it truly wasn’t the cause.
    I haven’t scoffed at women who have chosen to have a drink. Although, I have to admit, I did get a little concerned once watching a very pregnant woman drink several mixed drinks in a smokey bar, but to each their own, right?

  3. I am making no comments about anyone involved in this article, or anyone who has relayed there personal similar experience. I just felt I had to express my shock. I honestly had no idea that people still were choosing to drink while pregnant after doing research and being informed. I was completely floored.
    I am not pregnant. I never plan on being pregnant. Part of the reason why I never plan being pregnant is because I spend my professional life taking care of children who cannot be taken care of by their parents. Many of these children have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. ( FASD is real, its not a made up, its not an oppressive notion, its not a theory. It’s a devastatingly horrible disorder that cannot be cured and the only way to get it is if the mother consumes alcohol during her pregnancy. One glass ever, or a bottle a day, it does not matter.
    It may be that the chances seem slim to none that someone who has a glass of wine may cause their baby to be born with FASD, but there is still a chance. I encourage anyone who wants to be informed about what can happen from drinking while they are pregnant to go and volunteer with an agency that helps to treat/support/house people with FASD.
    FASD is heartbreaking. I cannot even express to you how heartbreaking. Anyone who would like to contact me about what I have said, I encourage it.

    Sorry if anyone thinks I am being preachy, it was not my intent. This is my personal experience on a professional level as a social, worker working with FASD. I can only hope that lack of FASD education is the cause of people choosing to drink while pregnant, and not that people are dismissing FASD as serious disorder.

    • Christie, I totally appreciate you providing this perspective — and I certainly don’t think anyone’s denying the serious issues surrounding FASD. I think it’s hard to be a pregnant woman in the US and *not* be keenly aware of FASD, something I hope this post recognizes. No one’s advocating heavy drinking during pregnancy — but I think there is a strong response against the culture of “all or nothing” recommendations around health issues in the US.

    • Thanks for posting this Christie – I feel the same way. My (adopted) step brother has FASD; he’s 40 years old and will never hold a steady job, and has been living below the poverty line since moving out on his own. He has learning disabilities and social issues that make it difficult for him to function even within the circle of family.

      I think the key point you’re making here is that one drink IS too much, and DOES potentially put someone at risk for having a baby with FASD.

      I struggle with this in Canada because my first thought is “If you go ahead and drink, don’t expect us to pay for the social programs your baby will need growing up!” But who can deny a baby, a child, or even an adult the care needed due to something entirely out of their control?

    • FASD is certainly a VERY serious matter, and I don’t think anyone is attempting to diminish the seriousness of it. However, my research shows that there have been no incidences of FASD found in babies whose mothers consumed no more than one drink a day.

      The American Medical Association recommends that pregnant women comsume absolutely no alcohol during pregnancy. However, the research doesn’t really bear out that absolute abstinence is necessary.

  4. I’ve been having so much angst over the drinking thing, though I refuse to hide my choice from anyone that I’m not abstaining from all drops of anything related to booze. I’m in month 6, I have had maybe a third-of-an-ounce or less of wine or beer on occasions, mayyyybe totaling 4-6 oz over the course of the whole pregnancy. Mostly it comes in tiny tiny sips of other people’s drinks, because I miss the flavor.

    I’m an engineer, I’ve done the research, and yet, despite all this, I still find myself running mental circles over the paranoia that I could be doing something BAD to my child, despite all knowledge to the contrary. I’m not so worried about the social stigma itself, people can be like that and one deals; it’s more that the debate is so heated, so vehement, that intelligent, well-informed people can be made to second-guess their best judgments in such an extreme fashion. Logic and research indicate that I’m WAY under the safety line on this issue, and yet, I get so stressed that I stop after the third or fourth tiny sip.

    I’ve gotten a few people asking what I was drinking at parties (um, water, with lime in it, or *gasp* with some mostly-frozen fruit from the sangria bowl), and I look at them funny. I respond “Vodka, obviously!” But everyone knows I’m taking minuscule sips of things here and there, so it’s not all that surprising that some are willing to ask. I appreciate their concern to a certain extent; I didn’t think about tonic water being bad, and might still be drinking it if someone hadn’t pointed out that quinine is not good for fetuses.

    Why is it that regular binge drinking(~1,000-10,000 oz over 9mo), a glass a week (~320 oz over 9mo), and tiny sips here and there (~9 oz over 9mo) amount to the same thing for so many people, despite up to 1000x variance in volume? Orders of magnitude of paranoia are available to each and every one of us, AND everyone who knows we’re knocked up. As long as everyone treats everyone else’s decisions with respect, variation is probably good for the species.

  5. I’m pretty sure this comment will get deleted but I’m going to say it anyway.

    wow, hold up. There is a difference between doing something like, eating strawberries and smoking or *drinking*. The fact remains that alcohol can and *does* cause major problems for developing babies; problems that last for the rest of their lives.

    Maybe a glass doesn’t hurt; but why risk it? Fetal alcohol Syndrome isn’t some made up scare tactic; it’s real and very damaging.

    I think it’s really funny that everyone claims they don’t judge anyone. I’m calling your collective bluffs.

    And if we’re telling the truth here; I totally judge women who drink while pregnant and I judge parents who smoke while pregnant and around their children period and I also judge those parents who sit on the bus for an hour and never look up from texting on their phones and totally ignore their kids.

    I hope that people judge me if they think I’m doing something to harm my future children too. I’d rather people *care* about children than be polite.

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