Before I got pregnant, I had high hopes. I was going to stop drinking three months before I planned to try for kids, and I was going to my make the husband go cold turkey as well. I was going to start prenatals at the same time and limit my fish intake. But things don’t always go as planned, and when I finally got pregnant with my daughter she was kind of a surprise. I mean, I was well aware of the possibility that I could be pregnant and was taking pregnancy tests every day but I wasn’t legitimately trying for a baby that specific month. But that’s a tangent, back on topic. Since we had already tried for three consecutive months with no success, I had the rude awakening that pregnancies don’t happen on your schedule. So I gave up the plan to clean up my culinary act prior to conception. I continued eating smoked meats and unpasteurized cheeses with a side of wine. The day I found out I was pregnant, I actually had a hangover. (I wasn’t concerned though, because I knew that alcohol that early on in the pregnancy has a very small, if any effect on the zygote).
When I saw those two lines on the pregnancy test, however, I did the responsible thing and sealed up the wine and vodka bottles and donated the cheese (a sad day, for sure). With the assistance of my husband, I began buying organic eggs and meats at the grocery store and I upped my fluid intake. That first trimester I did great. I knew that all of Baby’s organs were still forming so the last thing I wanted to do was to interfere with their development.
I continued my tee-totalling ways until I was around 20 weeks pregnant. The husband and I went on a cruise for our babymoon and it was a cause for celebration. This would be our last vacation as a two-person family forever. The cruise departed from Puerto Rico, so we flew into San Juan the day before to explore the city. While we were out, my husband got a signature cocktail that screamed “Vacation!”, if not “Puerto Rican Vacation!”. So I took a small sip just to say I partook in Puerto Rican culinary culture.
While we were on the boat, I ordered a glass of wine to go with dinner. The first time I took a sip, I was deeply disappointed. Not in the wine, per se, the wine was fine. It’s just that it had been five months since I’d last appreciated a bottle of pinot grigio and thought that this glass would be satiating. Instead, my worry over whether it was affecting the baby and to what extent prevented me from enjoying it, so I gave the remaining half of that glass to my husband. I attempted to have another glass one or two more times throughout that vacation, but with the same outcome.
Once the holidays hit, I found my guilt waning and I was able to enjoy that one glass during what I called “special occasions”. Things like my sister-in-law visiting from out of town, New Year’s Eve, the husband’s birthday and Valentine’s Day. I never drank more than one glass and I always consumed it with a full dinner in order to slow the absorption into my bloodstream (and thus into my fetus).
Drinking wine while pregnant (or any alcohol, really) is one of many hot topics in the mom community. Some women wouldn’t dare touch a drop as soon as they start trying to conceive, other women have a glass every night through their entire pregnancies. Choosing whether or not to imbibe is a deeply personal decision, so I will simply offer an explanation why I decided not to abstain despite all those warnings you hear about (e.g. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). It wasn’t because I believed in the benefits that wine has on your health. I wasn’t much of a red wine drinker, anyway. I just enjoyed the taste and the experience. I chose to drink because I knew I wouldn’t overdo it and most things are fine in moderation, alcohol included. I also remembered those stories that in older civilizations people drank beer or wine all day long because the water quality was sub-par. Whether that’s true or not, I’ll never know but I ran with it. They didn’t die off; instead they sprouted even larger civilizations … and for the most part, we’re all fine today. Folklore aside, many doctors (mine included) agree that one occasional glass during pregnancy is okay. I still personally wouldn’t drink during the first trimester, when organs are still forming, but after that, responsible consumption was fine with me. Now I’m no doctor but the cases that I’ve read about regarding Fetal Alcohol Syndrome had to do with mothers who either habitually (read: every day) consumed moderate to large amounts of alcohol or consumed excessive amounts on single occurrences (binge drinking). My research123 led me to believe that the single most important factor in drinking while pregnant was how much your blood alcohol content peaked. If you drank enough to where you were drunk, then the risk of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome increased substantially. However, this did not seem to be the case for women who drank one glass occasionally. Some doctors and studies may say that no amount of alcohol is okay, but that’s because they can’t ethically conduct an experiment to see where the threshold is (“Who wants to volunteer to give your baby Fetal Alcohol Syndrome? In return you’ll get a gas stipend and a $50 gift card.”). Rather than use the ambiguous cliché that “moderation is fine” they’d rather tell moms to avoid it, because moderation to one mom might be 3 drinks and to another mom might mean a half a drink. I’ve never been one to overindulge though (web surfing, aside) so I was confident in my decision on when and how much to drink while pregnant. The same went for sushi and other foods found on the no-no list.
It’s now been seven months since Baby was born. She was born a healthy weight and length, has maintained healthy levels ever since, and she’s reaching the milestones within a normal range of time. It appears that my drinking wine while pregnant did not negatively affect her development.
Am I saying that you should go out and drink to your hearts content while pregnant? No, not at all. If you can go those entire nine months without a sip, more power to you. What I am saying is that if you choose to have ONE glass of wine while pregnant on special occasions, you’re not alone..
Footnote: I don’t want to bog down this article with tons of links. I’m not Wikipedia after all! So here are some links that summarize the research I read.
1 TODAY : New study shows no harm from moderate drinking in pregnancy, but experts urge caution. January 3, 2014.
2 Slate.com : I Wrote That It’s OK to Drink While Pregnant. Everyone Freaked Out. Here’s Why I’m Right. September 11, 2013.
3 NPR : Study Finds No Harm In Occasional Drink During Pregnancy. April 17, 2013.