03 December 2008

Pregnant? Highstrung? Have a glass of wine.

The hysteria over Fetal Alcohol Syndrome started in the 1970s, the government waging its well-intentioned campaign by, inter alia, requiring every alcoholic beverage to contain the surgeon general's warning to pregnant women about the risk of birth defects. The fact that America has a puritannical streak with regard to tobacco and liquor is of no help. (In France, for instance, it is expected that one serve at least two types of wine with dinner--and this rule was followed without exception at the pilgrimage retreat centers at which we stayed, run by habited religious. Here, one assumes nuns would be looked at askance if they served alcohol to their guests.)

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is, of course, nothing to take lightly; neither is it something to fear with the occasional glass of wine, being that FAS is only the result of abusive drinking, meaning several drinks a day over an extended period of time. For someone like me, who has perhaps had three glasses of wine over the past eight months, such fear would be more than ridiculous. According to this article:
[N]ot even one study carried out since the mid-1980s has shown a direct correlation between moderate alcohol consumption and birth defects. One study, of 33,300 California women showed that even though 47% drank moderately during their pregnancies that none of their babies met the criteria for Fetal Alcoholic Syndrome. The authors of this study concluded "that alcohol at moderate levels is not a significant cause of malformation in our society and that the position that moderate consumption is dangerous, is completely unjustified."
A recent UK study revealed similar:
“Our research has found that light drinking by pregnant mothers does not increase the risk of behavioural difficulties or cognitive deficits. Indeed, for some behavioral and cognitive outcomes, children born to light drinkers were less likely to have problems compared to children of abstinent mothers...."
If you can't drink responsibly, abstain altogether (and don't use this post as an excuse to binge). But if you enjoy a glass of red wine once or twice a week, there is no reason to forgo this occasional pleasure just because one is expecting.