“[Drinking in pregnancy] is a lot of fate to play with for the sake of a moment’s relaxation.”
— Michael Dorris
About 50% of women drink alcohol at some point during their pregnancies. For some of these women, alcoholism will be the scourge that defines their baby’s lives in many and varied negative ways—their babies may develop some form of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD); producing irreversible damage in the baby.
Yet, a pregnant mother needn’t be alcoholic to cause damage in her unborn baby—or even drink much during pregnancy. She may only drink a handful of times and only have a handful of drinks. Yes, even a 5 x 5 approach may be all it takes, perhaps less.
There’s still not enough known regarding the threshold amounts for ‘safe’ intake, or the stages of pregnancy the damage is caused, to mandate an allowable amount of alcohol.
But we are to be cautioned in discussing this topic so as to not entrap women in journeys toward guilt and condemnation for having consumed alcohol during pregnancy. My mother smoked through her pregnancies, for instance. We should not feel guilty for what we only now know.
Dealing with Practical Issues of Living
In Western culture it’s quite normal to drink. Some, indeed many, drink to cope with the strain of life. Many of us can identify—life is inherently stressful.
Alcohol is often deemed as the best choice, or preferred, coping medium when forms of resilience require hard work to develop. And given that, culturally, we are more estranged to resilience than we are to using alcohol we will battle to change our culture.
But we must promote a message of nil alcohol for pregnant women.
Now, that leaves us with a quandary; particularly for women who use alcohol or those predisposed toward depression and other mental illnesses.
It’s clear that our pregnant women need support, love, and outlets for expression during their pregnancies. Sometimes pregnancies are unwanted, and at many other times mothers-to-be may harbour much doubt regarding the future, notwithstanding how much they may want their babies. There are also social reasons to drink. There are a myriad of other issues, too extensive to mention here.
Pregnant women, therefore, need loving support such that baby’s gestation would be a positive alcohol-free experience, or as positive as possible. This is not a real-world reality, however, for many women. More is the pity, then, that some will be driven to drink.
Alcohol and pregnancy just do not mix; even moderate drinking has produced irreversible Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. The community has a responsibility to support pregnant women in their choice to abstain from drinking during pregnancy, as we, too, have a personal responsibility.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.