It is common knowledge that a woman should never let a drop of alcohol pass her lips when she has a bun in the oven. In fact, drinking during pregnancy has become a true taboo, resulting in verbal attacks of irresponsible women by onlookers. All the same, little is actually known about the subject. Adamant supporters of the movement to avoid drinking during pregnancy may not know exactly what they are fighting for.
When you are pregnant, nearly everything taken into your body gets filtered through your baby’s life source, the placenta. Alcohol is no different. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that a baby is unable to metabolize the alcohol you take in as quickly as you do. This may lead to your baby having a higher blood alcohol level than yourself. Continued use of alcohol may result in your child being born with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. These disorders manifest themselves in different ways but frequently result in low birth weight, mental retardation, developmental delay, social problems and physical abnormalities.
Since many babies are unplanned or unexpected, women may have a few alcoholic drinks before they discover they are pregnant. Often mothers-to-be become panicky upon realizing their mistake. However, the March of Dimes assures moms that a couple of drinks at the earliest stages is not likely to cause long-term harm to your child. At the same time, it suggests that you stop drinking immediately upon receiving a positive pregnancy test or if you think you may be pregnant.
A study published in the October 2008 edition of the “International Journal of Epidemiology” says that the concept of abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy may be all wrong. The study illustrates that mothers who have one or two drinks a week when pregnant bear children who are at no increased risk for developing behavioral or developmental problems.
The United States steadfastly supports an abstinence-only position against drinking while pregnant, but this is certainly not a worldwide consensus. Recently Australia augmented its alcohol warning to suggest that women drink no more than seven alcoholic drinks a week during pregnancy. Many European nations, such as France, Spain and Germany, also take this more laissez-faire approach and suggest only light drinking.
The American Pregnancy Association warns that alcoholic drinks are not the only ones a woman should be cautious of during pregnancy. For instance, though moderate amounts of caffeine are safe during pregnancy, its consumption should be limited to 40 mg a day to prevent miscarriage, stillbirth or low birth weight. Some herbal teas may also be dangerous. Although few studies have been conducted, some herbal tea ingredients raise questions. Red raspberry leaf, nettles, alfalfa and yellow dock are common tea ingredients that should be discussed with your doctor before you have a cup.