Drinking Wine While Pregnant: The Latest

A couple of the most commented on and most controversial posts I’ve ever written were entitled Wine and Pregnancy: The Facts, which referenced an article by the late Israeli wine critic Daniel Rogov about the subject, and a post entitled More on Wine and Pregnancy, which reacted to a more recent article in the news. Both of these posts still get comments today, many years after they were written. Of course most of them are people decrying how horrible it was to encourage people to have a glass of wine while pregnant.

You see, here in the highly moral society of America we’ve decided that somehow it’s our business what other people are doing to their bodies, and in particular, we feel entitled to all but dictate to pregnant women what they can and cannot do, all in the name of our “concern” for the unborn child that is not ours.

Strangely, in a society that is ever mistrustful of its government, where the Surgeon General’s warnings about cigarettes go completely disregarded, we hold one of his proclamations to be gospel. Namely that drinking any alcohol while pregnant harms the fetus.

This, of course, is a load of horseshit, to use a technical term. Just ask women in all the other countries around the world who are free from the shackles of American medical and moral conservatism and regularly have an occasional glass of wine while pregnant because that is part of their culture.

No, despite mountains of statistical evidence to the contrary, America continues to believe that having a glass of wine while pregnant is a risky thing. All because a bunch of studies were done decades ago with alcoholics and binge drinkers who ended up having kids with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and then those results were extrapolated to the general public, and served up as proof that drinking while pregnant puts the kid at risk.

Almost as amazing to me as this fact, has been that for the last 10 years there have been practically no attempts by rational, scientifically minded scholars, researchers, or doctors to correct this misguided notion.

Well thanks to a few Brits, we’ve now got what looks to be (you can never be certain just by reading a news story) a fairly well conceived and executed study proving that having a glass of wine with dinner a few nights a week is just fine, ladies.

And (BONUS!!) not only is it just fine, but if the study in question is actually correct, occasional moderate drinking during pregnancy actually leads to more physically coordinated kids! That’s right. If you want to gestate a future gymnast, then red wine with dinner is your ticket.

Of course, I’m not giving advice here, nor encouraging anyone to go against the advice of those who are qualified to give it (your obstetricians) but if your OB is anything like ours, they’ve probably told you surreptitiously that a glass of wine might actually do the mother some good on occasion.

I encourage you to read the story, and decide for yourself, of course, but it’s nice to see a real scientific study countering decades of misinformation.

Read the full story.

And if after reading this your inclination is to write a comment here about how I’m going to rot in hell for telling women to engage in behavior which will deform their children, trust me, I’ve heard it all before and you can save yourself the effort of writing a comment which I’ll just end up deleting anyway.

Bottoms up, moms!

Photo of pregnant wine drinker courtesy of Bigstock.

Comments (6):

  1. Jessica

    June 20, 2013 at 10:43 AM

    Great article! I’m a nutritionist, drank wine occasionally during both my pregnancies, and both my boys were “freakishly” coordinated from very young ages. Keep up the good work!

  2. John Nezlek

    June 23, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    I am far from a Puritan when it comes to any behavior I can think of, but I must take exception to the relatively uneducated (or should I say uniformed) opinions being offered here about drinking while pregnant. Unfortunately, it is not known what levels of alcohol consumption are safe for the developing fetus or embryo. What is known is that whatever is in the mother’s blood goes into the embryo’s or fetus’s blood, and alcohol is a toxin that the unborn cannot catabolize as adults can. It is that simple.
    It may very well be that a glass or two (or three or four) of wine per day (or whatever) will have absolutely no effect on the developing embryo/fetus. On the other hand, it may be that it will. Thankfully, no one has done the research that is needed to determine the amount of alcohol that results in the irreversible set of effects known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS to those in the biz).
    When drinking alcohol (wine or Jack Black — it does not matter) pregnant women put their unborn child at risk. It may be that this risk is so small that it is worth taking for the relaxation that a glass or two of wine brings. As a research psychologist who has studied developmental delay for about 30+ years, I would not recommend it.
    FAS is a totally preventable condition, and I think characterizing the advice that pregnant women should avoid drinking alcohol as being the result of some type of Purtinical bias reflects a sort of paranoid bias itself. Certainly, many in the no-drinking crowd are zealots (ex-drinkers or ex-somethings) who should be ignored, but when you have confronted the realities of FAS, the lifetime of damage that alcohol can cause to a developing child seems like a big price to pay for drinking a glass or two (or whatever) whenever for nine months. Why not just not drink for this period of time?
    From the article in question:
    Professor John Macleod of Bristol University, who led the research, said he intends to continue telling women if they want to ‘play safe’ they should not drink while pregnant.
    ‘The debate on advice to women in pregnancy is an important one, and many people will argue that the ‘precautionary principle’ of advising no alcohol at all should hold.
    Alder — get off your high horse on this one. You are off base.

  3. frugalglug

    June 23, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    The real story underneath it all is how certain facts, or bloated facts as we read here, become popular, carrying along the American zeitgeist of fears and passion. I can close my eyes and see the faces of many woman I know who would absolutely tear apart another woman if they saw her drinking a glass of wine whilst pregnant.
    You said it well enough in your post: that our bodies, and what we do with them, are our own business. But that’s just my opinion…many would disagree vehemently.

  4. Sarah May Grunwald

    September 18, 2013 at 5:40 AM

    Thank you for this post, Alder. it is important for douchebags the world over to remember we have control of our OWN bodies. Drinking a pint of stout or a glass of wine occassionally while pregant can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. Red wine boosts vitamin uptake. Stout has a lot of B vitamins. Also, pregnant women are excellent tasters as many have heightened sense of smell and taste. Wineries worldwide should hire pregnant sommeliers to sniff out flaws. But seriously, you are spot on. And if a woman CHOOSES not to drink that is for her to decide. Many women are actually repelled by the smell of wine while pregnant.

  5. MChristian

    October 19, 2013 at 8:26 PM

    What irritates me is how onlookers somehow think it’s their business to comment on an issue that should really be between me and my doctor. To me, it isn’t so much about my choice of what to do with my body–it’s more a matter to me of what I’ve discussed with my doctor already and how somehow people think they have some kind of ownership over my pregnancy. Whether I drink a glass of wine a month is something I’ve already discussed with a licensed professional who in all likelihood knows loads more than some random passerby who happens to say, “isn’t that alcohol? aren’t you pregnant?” as if my doctor is dropping the ball or something.
    That same person wouldn’t look at a fat person stuffing themselves with McDonald’s and comment to their face, very few people would step in when the bartender is serving the guy who clearly had one too many, and everyone would walk by a teenager chain smoking on a park bench without chiming in with their two-cents. But, me and my baby warrants the public opinion? Gimme a freaking break.

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