Wednesday, 27 June 2012


Caution is not cowardly. Carelessness is not courage

It's a common fear among young women: "Oh my God, I just learned I'm pregnant. I was out to dinner last week and had a glass of wine. Did I hurt my baby?"

Don't dance on a volcano.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy has been taboo for some time. Not without reason. Heavy drinking during pregnancy can result in fetal alcohol syndrome. It causes problems in the child, including:

Delayed development
Impaired brain function
Abnormal appearance

Those who prepared for all the emergencies of life beforehand may equip themselves at the expense of joy.

But is a little alcohol during pregnancy really that dangerous? No one has been able to identify a safe amount of drinking during pregnancy. So doctors tell women to steer away from alcohol entirely.

Always count the cost.

A series of five studies from Denmark looked at the effects of drinking during pregnancy. The findings from this work suggest that low to moderate alcohol use in early pregnancy did not harm the brain or psychological development of children. Low alcohol use was defined as one to four drinks per week. Moderate use was five to eight drinks per week.

Beware of silent dogs and still waters.

The children were tested at age 5 for IQ, attention span and executive function. Executive function includes self-control and age-appropriate abilities to plan and organize. Children of mothers who drank low or moderate amounts during pregnancy had about the same scores as children whose mothers did not drink alcohol.

It is the bright day that brings forth the adder, and that craves wary walking.

Drinking more appears to be a different story. In one of the studies, 5-year-olds whose mothers had 9 or more drinks per week during pregnancy were significantly more likely to have lower test scores.

Every human being has, like Socrates, an attendant spirit; and wise are they who obey its signals. If it does not always tell us what to do, it always cautions us what not to do.

The study results were published in an issue of BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Today the world changes so quickly that in growing up we take leave not just of youth but of the world we were young in. Fear and resentment of what is new is really a lament for the memories of our childhood.

The authors of the study do not argue that drinking alcohol during pregnancy is wise or to be encouraged. In fact, most doctors, will continue to advise pregnant women not to drink alcohol.

Only a very small number of women took part in the studies. And the children were tested just once, at age 5. This is just one snapshot of a child's development.

Remember, no human condition is ever permanent. Then you will not be overjoyed in good fortune nor too scornful in misfortune.

There is no denying that heavy drinking during pregnancy is harmful for babies and moms. But women who have consumed a little alcohol before realizing they were pregnant shouldn't beat themselves up about it.

What about a sip (or glass) of champagne at a special occasion during pregnancy? Although I am still reluctant to say it's okay, it may not be an unreasonable or unsafe choice. In many parts of the world, light drinking during pregnancy is common and culturally acceptable. It's a choice each woman has to make for herself. Ideally, she should talk with her doctor or midwife about this issue.

Change, like sunshine, can be a friend or a foe, a blessing or a curse, a dawn or a dusk. The general advice to avoid alcohol in pregnancy will stand until research clearly defines a safe level of drinking. But these studies open the door for taking another look at this conservative stance in the future.

What we do know is that women who drink more than moderately should seek help, whether they are pregnant or not. The only people who like change are wet babies. Even so, there is no new thing under the sun.