I am a sucker for old English films. Why do I declare that here without any context, you ask? Because old English films seem authentic in their storytelling. And a lot many films have portrayed an expecting mum grabbing an occasional wine in the countryside.
This notion had me fixated for quite a long time. And I fancied the idea of being that pregnant woman grabbing a glass of wine when the time came. However, I figured I was pregnant when I couldn’t chug, yes, chug, my usual glass of red wine one evening. I realized something was amiss, and a visit to the washroom and pee later, we saw the pink lines. I think it was my body’s way of saying that it couldn’t process alcohol consumption anymore. And I chose to listen to it. I also listened to it even when it asked me to eat multiple bowls of kheer in the night, and I regretted listening to it. Pregnancy makes your hormones go crazy. Your body is constructing new organs, squeezing old ones, drawing blood, and dealing with morning sickness. It is a lot to take, both for your body and mind. So how do you unwind after a hard day? How do you relax after you have had multiple hard days? You need to de-stress now.
However, you are conflicted between the idea of drinking or not drinking a glass of alcohol. You have heard that your second cousin’s colleague had a normal delivery and never stopped drinking throughout her pregnancy. You have also read about babies being born with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). So what do you do?
The Fact Regarding Alcohol That Holds True
No amount of alcohol is safe for an expecting mother. The buzz that you are craving is caused by ethyl alcohol, a toxin to your body. Unfortunately, the buzz reaches your child through the placenta too.
There have been multiple articles doing the rounds on the web claiming that a bit of alcohol does not impact the child. However, what these articles fail to address is what is the safe level of alcohol for consumption. While some may argue that a sip is a safe amount, someone else may say that a glass is good.
No study has been able to establish a safe amount of alcohol consumption for pregnant women. And alcohol reacts differently to different bodies. A woman with higher levels of enzymes will break down alcohol easily compared to someone with lower levels of enzymes. It is one of the many reasons why alcohol consumption during pregnancy has mixed and confusing opinions.
What Happens Biologically When A Pregnant Woman Drinks Alcohol?
Alcohol gets into your bloodstream as a chemical or a toxin. It is how you get the buzz or feel high. It also means that the chemical flows through the umbilical cord and gets to the baby’s bloodstream. The amount that reaches the baby is uncertain but much lesser than the amount you consumed. The fetus will have a higher blood concentration compared to you. The alcohol will ensure that it stays longer in their system than it stays in yours.
How the baby reacts to the toxins in its bloodstream is a mystery. Developing fetuses do not know how to metabolize or break them. It can eventually become dangerous for its growth.
Risk Of Alcohol Consumption During Pregnancy
Heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy is known to be linked to many long-term and irreversible conditions for the child. The child may be born before its due date, resulting in its undeveloped progress. It could mean that the child is small in size and underweight. Specific facial characteristics could suggest the same—a smaller head, small eye openings, thinner upper lips, to name a few. There could also be complex problems in the way the heart and the muscles around it function.
Kids with FASD are slower to learn language skills and might have behavioral issues. Some kids show a delay in learning and have difficulty in attention and memory. Their coordination is not at par with their peers, and they usually struggle with problem-solving. All in all, FASD can make a child’s school time terrible in general.
What About The Controversial Studies Suggesting Alcohol Safety During Pregnancy?
Don’t even get me started on the studies on this topic all around the world. Simultaneously, one research suggests that midwives suggest a glass of wine to distress pregnant women. Another study shows that moderate drinking has a direct impact on a child’s behavioral issues in her growing up years. The same study also talks about its ignorance of the effects of low to moderate drinking during pregnancy. Another exciting and elaborate research by the medical company Kaiser Permanente suggests direct correlation. It says that the risk of miscarriages increases if there is alcohol consumption in the early trimesters.
So what does one make of all this research? This is all so confusing, isn’t it? None of the papers and reports discuss if there is a specific amount in the picture. My understanding after researching so much on the same topic is something monumental. It’s okay to have an occasional sip or a glass. More than one drink in a day can be potentially problematic for the child to process. Getting to the point of drunkenness is undoubtedly not in the picture. There is no definitive answer to how much alcohol consumption will ensure that you deliver a healthy child.
A lot of mothers drink during pregnancy. Only very few of them give birth to kids with FASD. FASD is a subset, and drinking mothers is the superset. The scare is, no one knows who falls within these very few categories of children. So, it’s a risk that you will have to decide on.
Tips For Avoiding Alcohol ❌
Shutting off alcohol is certainly not easy. It becomes more complicated when someone has had the habit for a long time.
However, it is possible and is worth all the peace you will have later. It is wiser to skip a glass instead of feeling guilty and regretting it for days after having one.
Here are some tips that have helped pregnant women skip their alcohol consumption:
- Take help from your partner and your close circle. They can help in distracting you when you have an urge. It would help if you were open about your cravings with people you can trust.
- Notice the pattern. You might be wanting a drink during specific times of the day or weeks. It could be after a hard day at work or over the weekend. Make initial plans to be distracted and stay prepared in advance.
- Dispose off all the alcohol in your house. You can also relocate them to a friend’s house for the time being.
- Replace a drink of your choice and dramatize the whole experience. It could be a frozen ginger ale or an aromatic green tea of your choice. Choosing green tea will do you more good than you can imagine. It will add to your water intake and also give you antioxidants.
- Avoid events and people that will make it difficult for you to avoid a drink.
- Seek help and make networks in online support groups. You might be able to find help from women who undergo the same problems as you.
Discussion of Alcohol during pregnancy has been a muddy discussion for a while now. You may take the chance of grabbing a drink or choose otherwise. If you do, it’s a risk you must be willing to move ahead with. There is no point in regretting after the act is over.
And if you choose to control your urges, hang strong, it’s just a matter of time. You can soon be able to grab a drink without any regrets once the child is out and healthy.