CDC to Women of Childbearing Age: Don’t You Dare Drink!

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Here’s my piece in today’s New York Post:

Imagine if the feds sent the following letter to American men:

Dear Fellas: Due to issues of compromised sperm quality, we are recommending that you abstain from all alcoholic beverages from the age of 15 till 45. We trust this will not have too much impact on your lifestyle. Think of the children! Yours, The Centers for Disease Control

Of course, the CDC didn’t send out a letter like that on Tuesday . . . to men. It did, however, issue this warning to women: “Stop drinking alcohol if [you] are trying to get pregnant or could get pregnant.” In other words: If you are of childbearing age, are not using birth control, and might possibly have sex, just don’t drink.

At all.

The ostensible reason is that a woman who consumes any alcohol while pregnant could give birth to a baby with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a cluster of defects that include low birth weight and brain damage. And since women don’t necessarily know that they’re pregnant until a few weeks or even a month has gone by, they could be drinking while knocked up.

There are three major problems here.

First, while it sounds as if there’s a direct and obvious connection between drinking and birth defects, the science is actually not conclusive. A meta-study done at Oxford examined 74 papers on the topic, and tallied up the results. What did all that data tell us?

“For most outcomes, there was no consistent evidence of adverse effects from low-to-moderate prenatal alcohol consumption,” the authors Ron Gray and Jane Henderson wrote.

No evidence of more stillbirths, malformations, small heads, stunted growth patterns or negative neurodevelopmental outcomes. There was “some” evidence to suggest that binge drinking during pregnancy could produce some adverse effects, but even those, the authors found, were “quite small.”

So to me it sounds like it’s a good idea not to binge drink when you’re pregnant, just to be on the safe side. It does not sound like you are dooming your baby with a sip (or even a swig) of Chardonnay.

Need proof? Visit France.

The second problem is that it reduces women to walking wombs.

“The idea is that any woman of reproductive age should be treated as potentially pregnant at all times,” says Elizabeth Mitchell Armstrong, an associate professor of sociology at Princeton and author of “Conceiving Risk, Bearing Responsibility.”

Taken to the next level, perhaps the CDC would like women of childbearing age to abstain from driving, too. After all, they could get in an accident. Or what if they play Pingpong and bump into the table?

What if, God forbid, they eat at Chipotle? Better the little ladies should sit on the couch and pop folic acid till menopause.

The CDC is delivering women a ton of terror for a scintilla — if that — of safety. Women are being told they must be helicopter parents before they even have kids. Before they even get pregnant!

You can see why I consider this a Free-Range Kids issue: Our society insists that anything less than 200% perfection on the part of parents = doom for the kids. That’s the outlook that gets parents arrested for doing things like, well, yesterday I got a letter from a man who had just dropped his wife off at college when he realized: Wait! She has the house keys! So he left his toddlers, safe and warm in the car, strapped in, while he ran in.

Out again 10 minutes later, he found a couple of security guards waiting at the car, not happy. They called the cops, the cops came to the man’s home, and he was handcuffed and taken to the precinct house.

HANDCUFFED.

I realize I’m getting off on a tangent, but it is part of the big picture: We are ADMONISHING and even ARRESTING parents not because they literally put their children in harm’s way, but because they didn’t bend over backwards to PROVE — almost to PANTOMIME — that they are the greatest, most conscientious, most insanely obsessive parents ever to walk the earth, abstaining from a single drink, dragging their tykes in and out of the car for super-short errands, and generally acting like their kids are forever at death’s door and only their concierge-like attention to every detail, every second, can save them.

THIS IS MADNESS.

This is why I write this blog!

And this is why you can read the rest of my article here, and spread it around. Have a great weekend! And don’t leave your kid in the other room, even when you have to pee! ANYTHING could happen!- L.

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Is it too late to arrest this hussy?

Is it too late to arrest this hussy?

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94 Responses to CDC to Women of Childbearing Age: Don’t You Dare Drink!

  1. common sense February 5, 2016 at 11:01 am #

    there was a show on I think it was history channel a while back called something like how beer saved the world. it was a history and look at beer through the ages and the gist of it was that for much of history water was dangerous to drink, while if it was brewed into to beer the alcohol made it safe. everyone including children drank beer, from the Egyptians onward. the pilgrims landed at Plymouth rock not because that’s where they planned to but because they ran out of beer! this hysteria over drinking doesn’t even have a puritan base, it started to eliminate crime and domestic problems. this “advise” is just an extention of it.

  2. Elsie K February 5, 2016 at 11:06 am #

    It truly is a pantomime. Sometimes when I’m talking to my kids in public I stop myself, realizing that what I am saying has nothing of benefit in the communication between my kids and myself. It’s really for any people in the vicinity that might question my parenting or motives.

  3. m February 5, 2016 at 11:53 am #

    I guess driving, skydiving, air travel and swimming are out too. As is eating bacon or dying your hair, wearing nail polish, or crossing a street on foot.

    Unless you are on birth control AND using a condom (because BC isn’t 100% effective) you shouldn’t do anything but wrap yourself in bubble wrap. Because even celibacy isn’t 100% safe.

    Cuz you know, it’s dangerous out there.

  4. BL February 5, 2016 at 12:04 pm #

    “Imagine if the feds sent the following letter to American men:”

    Of course, from 1919 to 1933 we had liquor Prohibition (men and women treated equally!), regardless of any intent to bear children.

    Enforcement was another matter, or so I’ve heard.

  5. Shelly Stow February 5, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

    And where were those kids when their dad was handcuffed and taken to the precinct? taken to DFS or its equivalent? parked in the precinct with an over-worked, under-attentive clerk in charge? or, maybe, [gasp] left alone in the back of a patrol car for 30 seconds or longer?

  6. Ashley February 5, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    Great point, thanks for sharing

  7. lollipoplover February 5, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

    I drink more now that I have children because…I have children.

    When I was pregnant with my first, my doctor told me to have a pint of Guinness to help naturally raise my iron levels (I was vomiting up the supplements). I had terrible morning sickness, was losing weight, and felt like crap with nausea all day long for 6 months. The only food I could eat that didn’t make me vomit was Lucky Charms. Processed, sugary cereal with food dye bombs that were magically delicious. I WANTED to eat and drink *perfectly*, but my body had different plans. The Guinness did help, and I delivered a perfectly healthy full-term baby.

    The monumental pressure placed on pregnant women to do everything perfectly has already backfired. Rates of pregnant women taking antidepressants for serious mood disorders (anxiety and depression) are at a record high. Although these drugs are classified Pregnancy Category B and deemed safe for pregnant women, studies now show links to autism:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/antidepressant-use-during-pregnancy-linked-to-increased-autism-in-kids_us_56706112e4b0e292150f72e3

    Nothing is safe!
    That glass of wine or pint of Guinness as an occasional splurge during pregnancy seems like a better choice than going out of your mind and needing medication for depression.

  8. Andrea D. February 5, 2016 at 12:27 pm #

    When I was pregnant my mom gave me her old pregnancy book from the 70s. While much of it is hilarious, I did take note of the fact that it says it’s okay for pregnant women to consume a small amount of alcohol.

  9. Eyes Rolling February 5, 2016 at 12:29 pm #

    Sounds like some at the CDC may be suffering from negative neurodevelopmental outcomes themselves.

  10. Aimee February 5, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    @m –

    Don’t forget all the others…. eating brie (again, ask The French), deli meat (ask, oh, anyone who lives near Katz’s), or tuna. The tuna one is my favorite. I absolutely CRAVED tuna salad while I was pregnant. Held myself to no more than 3 tuna salad sandwiches per week, although I could have eaten it breakfast-lunch-and-dinner. BTW, my resulting son is in Mensa, so I guess all that mercury didn’t harm him TOO much.

    Oh, and if you live in Brazil or other parts of South America, don’t get pregnant AT ALL. No lie. That’s what several ministries of health are recommending. http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/asking-women-to-avoid-pregnancy-is-absurd-even-in-the-face-of-zika/

  11. MichaelF February 5, 2016 at 12:42 pm #

    Yup, everything that we used to do and no one batted an eye about is going to kill/maim/harm us.

    Makes you wonder how the human race has survived this long.

  12. Papilio February 5, 2016 at 1:00 pm #

    You sound like you could use a glass yourself, Lenore. Are you still breathing? 😉

    I’m kinda surprised they don’t tell women to stop smoking too. That would make more sense to me than this over-reaction to any drop of alcohol a woman might consume.

  13. BL February 5, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

    Whatever happened to “women can control their own bodies since Rowe v Wade”?

    Except if they want demon rum?

  14. JulieC February 5, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

    I can just imagine the screams of outrage had this been the CDC during President Mitt Romney’s term in office. “That Mormon is trying to impose his religious views on us!” Ha!

    But seriously, my doctor advised me when I was pregnant that I could have a glass of wine if I wanted, particularly late in the pregnancy. She said the reason they advise no alcohol at all is that it’s easier to say that, then to say that a smaller amount of alcohol is okay and have everyone trying to interpret what “smaller” means.

    Also, I used to get looks and comments when I ordered regular espresso drinks while pregnant. As in, “are you sure you don’t want decaf, pregnant lady who must be trying to harm her unborn child?”

  15. Warren February 5, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    Come on now, it is only fair. Women have been telling men we can’t do anything right for decades. Finally someone has turned the tables.

  16. Liz February 5, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

    They also said that women in those ages should think twice about taking prescription medications. They are saying you should live with untreated health problem just in case you may accidentally get pregnant. They say this even though some of the medications they claim cause birth defects have actually shown in studies not to cause anything. But the CDC wants all us women to be perfect baby machine for our supreme, perfect Government.

  17. Jessica February 5, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

    This recommendation, as well as the “don’t drink anything at all while pregnant”, has more to do with the give an inch they take a mile mentality. The logic is that if you tell a pregnant woman she can have a drink, she’ll binge drink from now until the end of her pregnancy. I got this just recently when asking about supplementing my 10-month old’s diet. The nurse said they don’t tell moms anymore that they can just introduce milk (cow’s or otherwise), it’s just a hard and fast breastmilk or formula until 1 year because otherwise some moms will just give nothing but milk. Is it really so hard to believe that a mom who thinks it okay to drink a glass of wine now and again while pregnant will only drink a glass of wine now and again? Or that a parent who spanks a child when their behavior is particularly egregious doesn’t abuse them? Or that a parent who runs into a store or other building for a few minutes with their kids in he car is not actually planning to abandon them? The world is shades of grey, not black and white and politicians and government agencies and everyone else in the world needs to stop treating it as such.

  18. Catherine Caldwell-Harris February 5, 2016 at 1:46 pm #

    No drinking at all if you want to get pregnant or could get pregnant —

    Regarding “could get pregnant” —

    Many women are highly aware of their menstrual cycle and the time-of-the-month when they had sex; and if they are late, they know they may be pregnant. If there is any chance that the pregnancy will not be terminated, that is the time to stop drinking – when you are actually pregnant (after implementation).

    Ingested alcohol can not hurt the embryo’s brain before a brain exists. No neurons have been created before the woman misses her period. So, if you’re someone who knows when a period has been missed, then drink and binge all you want in between conception and implantation. The most that a binge can do is interfere with implantation. I’m not saying that alcohol could cause failure to implant, there are no studies, my point is simply: if that developing ball of cells has no neurons or brain, how can alcohol harm it without harming it so much that it fails to develop and is flushed out with the menstrual cycle? Our bodies are smart about jettisoning a developing organism with chromosomal damage or if the uterine lining is in poor health. thus — no fetal alcohol effect if you drink between conception and implantation.

    Now, regarding no drinking if you are trying to get pregnant. It’s a nice idea. You want to be in good health and get used to no drinking. But hardly something worthy of an edit from the CDC.

    Another topic: I used the hot tub regularly while I was pregnant (and was thrown out of my university pool once for doing so.)
    But I researched the literature and knew the number of minutes of immersion (10-15 min) that was needed to jack up the embryo’s temperature to the danger point, and then immersed for 1/10 of that time. Sure, so that was a few 30 second (or less) immersions interspersed with breaks. I still got thrown out of a hot tub for being visibly pregnant because the rule is no hub tub if you’re pregnant.

  19. pentamom February 5, 2016 at 1:58 pm #

    “The logic is that if you tell a pregnant woman she can have a drink, she’ll binge drink from now until the end of her pregnancy.”

    Bingo. Health recommendations treat adults like six year olds.

  20. LGB February 5, 2016 at 2:10 pm #

    “Stop drinking alcohol if [you] are trying to get pregnant or could get pregnant.” In other words: If you are of childbearing age, are not using birth control, and might possibly have sex, just don’t drink.”

    Well, as long as we’re playing a game of Just-in-Casies, stop drinking if you ARE on birth control. The birth control could fail! Then you could conceive! Then you might give birth to a fetal alcohol child!

    Might! Maybe! Could! Possibly! Just in case! Never know! All policies and recommendations must revolve around these scary, statistically unquantifiable dangers!

  21. Michelle February 5, 2016 at 2:11 pm #

    This is the same attitude that made my former doctor think it was ok to send a nurse to lecture me about birth control when I informed him that I had just miscarried. He was mad at me for getting pregnant while taking ADD meds (which I stopped taking the moment I suspected pregnancy), even though I was using two forms of birth control! And, did I mention, had JUST LOST MY BABY?

  22. Brooks February 5, 2016 at 2:17 pm #

    I believe that there is a puritanism that is creeping into our culture right now. It will eventually go and then come back again. It always does, especially when a society is going through a monumental shift.

    You see it with alcohol, food, smoking, etc. I recall hearing a doctor on a radio show actually say a while back that one single cigarette can cause lifetime damage to someone. Give me a break. An hour in Beijing is probably like smoking twelve cartons and I don’t hear anyone say don’t ever go to Beijing (though I don’t recommend it).

  23. Momof8 February 5, 2016 at 2:23 pm #

    I’m sorry, but it’s nice to see they’re gonna start harping on something besides smoking. Drinking is socially acceptable regardless of the societal impact. Okay, I’m covering my head. You can pelt me with rotten tomatoes now.

  24. BL February 5, 2016 at 2:42 pm #

    “one single cigarette can cause lifetime damage to someone”

    Well, sure, if it sets on fire the building you’re in and you can’t get out.

    I don’t suppose that’s what the doctor meant, though.

  25. Anna February 5, 2016 at 2:53 pm #

    “Drinking is socially acceptable regardless of the societal impact.”

    Um, perhaps the reason moderate drinking is socially acceptable is the fact that moderate drinking does not have a negative social impact? Just a thought. . .

  26. Elin February 5, 2016 at 3:08 pm #

    I personally believe there is some merit to “better safe than sorry” when it comes to a known pregnancy and alcohol, FAS is not made up, it does happen. However, different countries have different recommendations about everything. UK says it is OK with small amounts of alcohol after the first trimester (although they suggest that complete avoidance is the best) while my country says absolutely no alcohol. In the UK they say that you should not drink coffee while my country says that you can drink a maximum of 3 cups. I don’t think there are that much of a difference between British kids and Swedish kids really despite these differences.

    I do hate that some people see recommendations while pregnant as absolute rules. I am pregnant now and I do follow most of the rules (I have been sloppy with some things and made up my own mind about for example eating liver) but last time at the midwife I was not asked but told to have a specific test due to my parents having had heart attacks and strokes. I do get that this might make me more at risk for this but I honestly don’t want to know and since I have had a healthy pregnancy before I am not afraid. I was bullied into agreeing to take the tests and I have after making a lot of research decided to take them next time I go and not refuse them but I am so angry that my choice meant so little to them. I pray that they find nothing so that I can go on with life and not have to keep fighting to avoid having to take medicine I don’t want. Don’t get me wrong, will this test show very high risk I will take meds but not if it is proven that I have a slightly increased risk when I am overall healthy.

  27. James Pollock February 5, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

    “I recall hearing a doctor on a radio show actually say a while back that one single cigarette can cause lifetime damage to someone. Give me a break”

    I am allergic, and the reaction I get is that my throat swells closed. Before this was discovered, I went with a bunch of friends to a pool hall that was full of cigarette smoke. I couldn’t breathe and passed out, so they dragged me outside to wait for the paramedics. My friends told me I was “blue like a Smurf”.

    So, that meant no more pool halls, and, when I got older, no bars, because they were the only places left that allowed smoking indoors.

    True story… I went off to college. First-year students have to live on-campus. I told the housing administration that I could not share a room with a smoker. So, they matched me up with someone who said they weren’t a smoker. Move-in day comes, and I meet my new roommate, who of course, has a cigarette in his hand, because he’s just taken up smoking, now that he’s turned 18 and can buy them legally.

  28. BDK February 5, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

    My wife drank red wine while pregnant with both kids. They turned into CHUD.

  29. Stacey February 5, 2016 at 3:25 pm #

    Is it just me or is the great big, hypocritical elephant in the room being ignored by society? Let me get this straight…

    Abortion is legal.

    I’m not making moral judgments, not trying to start a debate-just stating a fact.

    If you have the right to KILL the fetus, how is it somehow a crime to do something that amounts to anything less than death
    ? Any potential injury,whether due to drinking, smoking, exercise or anything not currently approved by society in general, proven or not, is not WORSE than death. You can scramble the kids brains at any time up until 20 weeks, but, potentially if you have a drink at any time during the pregnancy you are a going to jail??? Where is the logic or sanity?

    I thought “choice” was all about a mother’s right to decide what to do with her body?
    Where does “Choice” go, when busybodies intervene?
    I have seen articles on the news where mothers lose custody of their kids because, during their delivery a toxicology screening showed illegal drug use as well. Maybe they smoked some pot, maybe they smoked meth, Not judging, just observing.

    I’m not saying that is an “optimal” circumstance, certainly not.
    But being a “sub-optimal” parent is not, and should not be considered criminal.
    Come on people.. what the hell?

    Seriously!

  30. Peter February 5, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    Actually, the smoking thing reminds me of a fun story.

    Years ago, a smoker friend of mine got pregnant. She talked to the doctor about quitting and the doctor suggested that she might want to cut down a bit–for her health as well as the baby’s–but she doesn’t need to quit. The argument, essentially, was that nicotine withdrawal will probably have a bigger effect than the cigarettes would.

    She cut down her smoking and, nine months later, delivered a bouncing baby boy with no problems. She quit afterwards.

  31. Diana Green February 5, 2016 at 3:33 pm #

    In most places throughout the world over the centuries the water was not safe to drink in the summer. It was frozen in the winter. Men, women and even kids drank fermented beverages. Wine, cider, whatever. Now, all of a sudden, panic . Drama. Funding for research grants. Pay no attention.

    But do not drink the water in Flint, Michigan.

    Have some Madiera, my Dear.

  32. John February 5, 2016 at 3:36 pm #

    Interesting Lenore. Of course I don’t have to worry about drinking while pregnant because I’m a 60-year-old man….LOL! But this is typical of the over reaction we have here in America today. One baby is born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome which was traced back to HEAVY drinking by the mom during pregnancy and now EVERY pregnant mother who has a glass of wine is irresponsible and needs to be jailed….sigh.

    Just this morning I saw a headline on a news site that read, “This popular drink slowly rots your teeth”. The offending beverage? Seltzer water! That’s right, Due to the acid, Perrier and Pellegrino are not as healthy for us as we think. Worse yet are the flavored fizzy waters such as La Croix which I drink all the time. They wear down the tooth enamel and the flavored drinks are just as bad as soda according to this article. So, they recommend diluting the carbonated water with regular water (Why the hell would anybody want to do that?) or just swish your mouth out with regular water after drinking the carbonated stuff.

    First of all, since I am supposed to drink lots of water, I prefer La Croix to regular water because of the fizz and the taste. According to the Nephrologist I see, La Croix is just as good for my kidneys as regular water is. Besides, I have not had a cavity in 20 years despite of drinking lots of La Croix in all flavors!!!

    So perhaps a simpler solution would be to brush your teeth on a daily basis? But maybe that recommendation wouldn’t make for a good article!

    Once again, I got off on a tangent here but like the “unhealthiness” of seltzer water, the fetal alcohol syndrome caused by drinking mothers is typical of the over reaction and sensationalism we see in the American media today.

  33. Buffy February 5, 2016 at 3:43 pm #

    Stacey, you made a moral judgment the moment you said “KILL the fetus”.

  34. lollipoplover February 5, 2016 at 3:47 pm #

    My siblings were born from the 50’s -70’s. My mom smoke and drank with all 12 of her pregnancies. All of my siblings are still alive, have jobs and families, no major medical conditions or learning disabilities growing up and are still in good health. Not that I agree with drinking and smoking socially while pregnant, but she was also very active.

    Now, the unborn baby and pregnancy are treated like we’re assembling an atomic bomb. Every molecule of food is evaluated like it could *potentially* be the compound that grows the fetus into a shrunken-head crack baby. You can ingest lead-contaminated water but step away from the Chardonnay!

    This pregnancy guilt and shaming is crazy and only makes for a more anxious pregnant mom. Which is such a shame because the human body is amazing and stressing out is probably the WORST condition for the baby. Let them eat what their body tells them to eat. Enjoy your pregnancy cravings and stop the insanity of judging every blessed molecule they ingest.

  35. James Pollock February 5, 2016 at 4:20 pm #

    “I thought “choice” was all about a mother’s right to decide what to do with her body?
    Where does “Choice” go, when busybodies intervene?”

    It is. The government (and pretty much anyone else) may advocate for something (“don’t have an abortion!” / “don’t drink if you’re pregnant!” / “don’t whatever it is I disapprove of, for whatever reason I disapprove of it!”)

    “I’m not saying that is an “optimal” circumstance, certainly not.
    But being a “sub-optimal” parent is not, and should not be considered criminal.”

    This is a seriously circular argument. Let’s see how it works if we change the story a little bit. Instead of talking about drinking while pregnant, let’s make it just a little stronger. Let’s say, talking about shooting at your kids with a handgun.
    Hey, it (shooting at your kids with a handgun) is not an “optimal” circumstance, certainly not. But being a “sub-optimal” parent is not, and should not be considered criminal.
    Look at that! It works!
    Wonder what else it would work on…
    Hey, it (selling your children for use as meat) is not an “optimal” circumstance, certainly not, but being a “sub-optimal parent is not, and should not be considered criminal.
    Wow. I’m going to have to think about this one for a while.

  36. Anna February 5, 2016 at 4:27 pm #

    “This pregnancy guilt and shaming is crazy and only makes for a more anxious pregnant mom. Which is such a shame because the human body is amazing and stressing out is probably the WORST condition for the baby. Let them eat what their body tells them to eat. Enjoy your pregnancy cravings and stop the insanity of judging every blessed molecule they ingest.”

    So true! An Indian friend told me something lovely: she said in India, everybody believes it’s very important for the expectant mother to eat right . . . specifically, to eat whatever she craves. Apparently, they think a pregnant mom who fulfills her food cravings will give birth to a contented baby, but if she denies her cravings the baby might turn out fussy. I wish that was our cultural custom to instead of all this “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” nonsense.

  37. Doug February 5, 2016 at 5:42 pm #

    Well, the CDC had to say something. Otherwise they’d have to figure out a way to handle the Zika virus stuff that’s coming to the US.

    Way easier to harp on something like this than actually DO something productive.

  38. Suz February 5, 2016 at 6:49 pm #

    FAS is very real. Many parents of adopted children will tell you that. Alcohol crosses the placenta. As an adopted parent I live this everyday and have met many parents that do too. I don’t know if a glass of wine now and then will hurt the fetus. I am sure you have all heard of the adopted children from Russia, where vodka is the drink of choice. This is the first posting here that I have not agreed with.

  39. Knocked Up February 5, 2016 at 7:09 pm #

    The book “Expecting Better” had protected my sanity for the past 6 months (it’s the anti- “What to Expect” with lots of statistics about the alleged dangers of deli meats, coffee, alcohol). Armed with those comforting statistics, I’ve broken damn near every don’t-eat-that rule.

    I don’t heat up my sandwich meats because there’s a greater risk of listeria from salads (which nobody warns you to stay away from). Sushi is only as dangerous as the source. Most studies on coffee and alcohol are heavily flawed and those that aren’t show very weak correlations between the substance and negative outcomes (light-moderate drinking in the case off alcohol).

    I had horrible morning sickness during the first trimester and lost a lot of weight, so I ate whatever struck my fancy. Luckily, observers can’t get all too judgey when you’re not showing. After the bump makes a grand appearance, RBF does all sorts of wonders.

  40. ChicagoDad February 5, 2016 at 7:24 pm #

    Did you hear that Shermer, Illinois, recently canceled it’s long running festival? It was the “Wine, soft cheese, deli meat, and sushi fest for expecting moms” It was blamed for an outbreak of teen angst, delinquency, detention, promiscuity, and parents leaving their kids home alone during family trips to Paris back in the 1980s.

  41. Andrew Jones February 5, 2016 at 7:26 pm #

    Suz: Fortunately, you don’t have to know. All current research suggests that anything less than continuous binge drinking or alcoholism has no measurable effect on the fetus, mainly because your body starts breaking it down immediately. This *Should* be intuitively obvious, because before people started freaking out about FAS, mothers do be had a drink once in a while, all over the planet, and somehow we didn’t have massive numbers of FAS kids *then*, and still don’t now for the same reason – you need to take in a *lot* of alcohol, regularly, to do any noticeable damage.

  42. Emily February 5, 2016 at 8:17 pm #

    >>FAS is very real. Many parents of adopted children will tell you that. Alcohol crosses the placenta. As an adopted parent I live this everyday and have met many parents that do too. I don’t know if a glass of wine now and then will hurt the fetus. I am sure you have all heard of the adopted children from Russia, where vodka is the drink of choice. This is the first posting here that I have not agreed with.<<

    Of course Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is real, but there's nothing wrong with waiting until you're actually pregnant, or trying to conceive, to give up or cut down on drinking. The CDC's edict, taken seriously, would essentially raise the drinking age for women to menopause (whether or not they even want to have children), while men would still be free to begin drinking at 18 or 19 or 21 or wherever it is where they live. I think this is ridiculous, and I don't drink alcohol OR plan to have children.

  43. Beth February 5, 2016 at 8:48 pm #

    @Emily, even if you don’t plan to have children STUFF HAPPENS, so you’d better stop drinking alcohol immediately just in case. Better safe than sorry. If it saves just one child. Etcetera.

  44. lollipoplover February 5, 2016 at 8:58 pm #

    @Anna-
    That is certainly very good advice. I was also told by my doctors that there is usually a physiological purpose to a pregnancy craving- it’s often the body’s way of getting the additional nutrients it needs.

    With my first pregnancy, I couldn’t eat any *real* food for the first and second trimester. I ate breakfast cereal to survive and felt so sick and thought I was growing an alien and not a baby. Cigarette smoke, people who smelled like alcohol, and any type of seafood made me vomit. By the 3rd trimester, I craved steak all the time (I also had an iron-deficiency and drank Guinness) and ate vast amounts of red meat. I had a very healthy and content baby who is my outdoorsy kid- a hunter- and his favorite food is venison.

    My second pregnancy I wanted no meat. I craved tuna and sushi every day and ate vast amounts of salads and vegetables. I used to hide the sushi containers from judgmental eyes and had serious tuna guilt (lying to my OB/GYN- I ate it like 5 times a week, not the 2X I told him) thinking my baby’s brain will be swimming in mercury, fried. She’s by far the smartest kid. She’s also my vegetarian.

    By the 3rd pregnancy (with 2 toddlers in diapers), I ate cheerios and goldfish off the floor of the car and whatever was around . Crusts off of PB and J sandwiches, I had the I don’t waste food diet. I choose to nap over making myself a decent meal. There was a lot of guilt because I should have been eating better to grow this perfect little person. Yet, she’s the happiest kid of all and the most adventurous eater, and has no problem eating food off the floor.

  45. Ste11aeres February 5, 2016 at 9:03 pm #

    Elsie, you said: “Sometimes when I’m talking to my kids in public I stop myself, realizing that what I am saying has nothing of benefit in the communication between my kids and myself. It’s really for any people in the vicinity that might question my parenting or motives.”

    I do the same thing with my dog. Dog lovers are (also) a judgmental bunch!

  46. Warren February 5, 2016 at 10:12 pm #

    Considering beer, wine, and vodka it is a wonder that there are any Germans, Italians or Russians left. And really based on beer alone, there should be no Canadians.

    During the pregnancy of our youngest, our Italian neighbor, bless her heart, brought over more freaking food than any family should eat. Homemade breads, deli bought and homemade cold cuts, and her soft goat cheese with garlic, lemon and dill was killer. And yes a jug of homemade wine every once in a while. She only had sons and never got to spoil a daughter during pregnancy, so my wife lucked out. And when she came over with our food, she would sit down and pour herself and my wife a glass of wine, and tell her it was good for her. All mothers need a glass of wine, each day.

    Now when it comes down to it, we had a basic idea of what was in the food we were eating, but had no way to know exactly what was all in the food. Did we care? Nope. Did we love it? Yep.

  47. liz February 5, 2016 at 10:40 pm #

    Doctors give RECOMMENDATIONS, that’s all. I listen to what they say, do my own research, and make up my own mind. This latest thing from the CDC is ridiculous, I had a fake period with my second, was keeping track, trying to get pregnant and had a false negative pregnancy test. I went to the doctor and was 12 weeks, not 8! Imagine my surprise, when I talked to my doctor about my drinking while I thought I was not pregnant, he said not to worry, the baby looks good now so he was sure no lasting damage was done. Miss thing will be 4 in May, and she is fine. Developmentally she is ahead of her older brother at the same age.

  48. Nadine February 6, 2016 at 12:24 am #

    If the health of the spawn is such an issue where are the laws for maternity leave. Where are the laws that make sure thar pregnant women have job protection so they dont have the stress off loosing their job working adversely on the health of the fetus. Stress is the biggest risk in pregnancy. Not a glass of wine. And with being better save then sorry… Where is that safety truely?

  49. James Pollock February 6, 2016 at 2:15 am #

    “If the health of the spawn is such an issue where are the laws for maternity leave.”

    Right here. They have to give you maternity leave (paternity leave, too.) and they have to give you a comparable job when you return.

    Oh, you wanted PAID leave? That’s another story. Why should your employer be forced to pay you to carry a baby instead of working?

  50. anonymous mom February 6, 2016 at 2:49 am #

    “The logic is that if you tell a pregnant woman she can have a drink, she’ll binge drink from now until the end of her pregnancy.”

    That’s likely true, but in reality, the women who would binge drink through their entire pregnancies are going to do so anyway. All this is going to do is panic a bunch of women who are light, responsible drinkers.

    I had drank very lightly in the early weeks (like, first two or three weeks) of two of my pregnancies. Both my OBs told me not to worry. I was told that, early in the pregnancy, the nourishment for the growing baby comes from the yolk sac, not the placenta (which isn’t fully-formed until the eighth week of pregnancy), so it’s really a complete non-issue, and that one glass of wine and one beer over a two-week period would be a non-issue anyway.

    The idea that, because we don’t know how much alcohol is safe in pregnancy, we should require complete abstinence, is just untrue. Of course we don’t know at what exact point alcohol becomes harmful, because we can’t do studies on it, but there are many substances, including Tylenol and caffeine, that we cannot pinpoint the exact safe threshold for in pregnancy. In reality, we know that FAS is linked to binge drinking (having a large number of drinks in one sitting) at critical developmental periods and regular moderate or heavy drinking (having 3 drinks a day for months on end while pregnant).

    That said, I think this is less about wanting to control women’s drinking habits than making sure that as many women of childbearing age as possible are taking birth control.

  51. sexhysteria February 6, 2016 at 3:17 am #

    Even in wine-loving Italy doctors advise women who are fertile and sexually active not to drink. It’s not just FAS, but other possible adverse effects to both mother and child. Do people really need to smoke and drink more than they need to avoid risks of injury to themselves and their children?

  52. lollipoplover February 6, 2016 at 7:50 am #

    To all the pregnant moms who have commented here- Congratulations!
    Enjoy the ride, know that YOU know your own body best and what it tolerates and needs. Stop reading BS CDC guidelines and relax and enjoy the miracle of life you are creating.

    For a laugh, I have to share this food blog (and the comment section…oh, there’s some good ones). So if you aren’t eating Brain Dust, elevated cashews, or micro cilantro, no worries. Neither are most of us and our babies turned out just fine. Even with an occasional glass of wine.

    http://www.elle.com/beauty/health-fitness/a28600/amanda-chantal-bacon-moon-juice-food-diary/

  53. Beth February 6, 2016 at 8:49 am #

    Thanks for the morning laugh @lollipoplover. Those comments were priceless!

  54. J.T. Wenting February 6, 2016 at 2:22 pm #

    “Of course, from 1919 to 1933 we had liquor Prohibition (men and women treated equally!), regardless of any intent to bear children.

    Enforcement was another matter, or so I’ve heard.”

    But now it’s FOR THE CHILDREN!, so SWAT doing no-knock warrantless searches of every home and other building several times a week is surely not excessive?

  55. Anna February 6, 2016 at 4:29 pm #

    sexhysteria: “Even in wine-loving Italy doctors advise women who are fertile and sexually active not to drink. It’s not just FAS, but other possible adverse effects to both mother and child. Do people really need to smoke and drink more than they need to avoid risks of injury to themselves and their children?”

    Am I correct to deduce that you are male? Having been pregnant myself, I was furious enough at all the non-evidence-based restrictions popular wisdom preaches to pregnant women with the mantra, “It’s only nine months – wouldn’t you rather give up X than risk any chance at all of harm?” (Nine months, by the way, is a lot longer than you might think, if you haven’t tried it.)

    Changing that lousy reasoning to, “It’s only your reproductive decades – wouldn’t you rather give up X than risk any chance at all of harm?” is so much worse I didn’t actually think I’d ever see anybody saying that.

  56. andy February 6, 2016 at 5:32 pm #

    @Suz Yes, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is more common in places like Russia where people drink a lot, but the amount of alcohol those mothers drink during pregnancy is huge. We are talking about pregnant women who are alcoholics already even by local standards and drink really a lot during later stages of the pregnancy.

    That has nothing to do with moderate amount of alcohol in early stage when you do not even know yet you are pregnant and once in a while small amount of alcohol later.

    Afaik, there is no documented case of child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome being born to mother who drunk only moderately.

  57. James Pollock February 6, 2016 at 8:07 pm #

    “Afaik, there is no documented case of child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome being born to mother who drunk only moderately.”

    The problem being “moderately”… compared to what?

    There are a couple of factors at work here.
    The first one involves math. A safe amount of alcohol depends on many factors related to metabolism, and will be difficult to determine and varies on a case-by-case basis. Recommending zero intake removes all the math and complexity from the problem.

    Secondly, if the doctors, collectively, work out a “safe” amount, and it turns out NOT to be safe in some circumstance, somewhere, the doctors catch blame for not foreseeing it. If they recommend zero, that won’t happen.

    There’s probably a safe level of Thalidomide, too, but.. what’s the point of looking for it? Thalidomide has known harmful effects on fetuses, recommend that people with one avoid the other.

  58. Anna February 6, 2016 at 8:24 pm #

    “There’s probably a safe level of Thalidomide, too, but.. what’s the point of looking for it? Thalidomide has known harmful effects on fetuses, recommend that people with one avoid the other.”

    Actually, there would perhaps be a point, and if not of Thalidomide, of other anti-nausea meds for pregnant women, and the fact that drug companies totally dropped such research after Thalidomide is about litigation, not what’s best for women and babies. As one lawyer I read on the topic put it, in every 1000 births, there are a certain number of random birth defects. Whether an anti-nausea drug caused them or not, the lawyers will trot them out in court and the drug company will lose big, so nobody even tries to develop anything.

    I’ve known a number of women who were gravely ill with pregnancy nausea, often for the whole nine months, and were unable to get any effective medical help. Some brave doctors will prescribe off-label drug combinations for them, but those doctors are going out on a limb by doing so. I would argue that it would in fact be better to figure out “how much Thalidomide is okay” (or some other drug for the same purpose).

  59. James Pollock February 6, 2016 at 10:33 pm #

    “Actually, there would perhaps be a point, and if not of Thalidomide, of other anti-nausea meds for pregnant women, and the fact that drug companies totally dropped such research after Thalidomide is about litigation”

    So, there’s a market for an anti-emetic drug that doesn’t cause horrible birth defects. Rather than testing a drug known to cause horrible birth defects, a company that wants to make money would be expected to be looking for a drug that doesn’t. By the time you find a dosage of Thalidomide that is safe for all pregnant women to take, it’s probably not very effective for most of them.

    Here’s an analogy. A standard bullet cartridge contains a shell, a bullet, and enough explosive to propel the bullet with lethal force. If you want a non-lethal weapon, you could start experimenting with reducing the amount of explosive in the cartridge to find one that doesn’t kill people. Of course, besides the challenges of testing it, by the time you’ve got a bullet with so small an amount of explosive in it that it can’t kill anyone, it’s probably useless for anything else.

    Getting back to the big issue, I don’t see a solution.
    If you are of child-bearing age, and you are still considering producing children (or actively engaged in same), the decisions you make are no longer yours alone… they inherently involve someone else. There’s no way to separate the two. Pregnancy is the most obvious time when this is true, but not the only one. And, it’s not like male persons aren’t affected by this, too. You’re expected to divert a bit of your personal autonomy to the needs of your children, and failure to do so WILL earn you some social disapproval. And yes, you will get some social disapproval, from time to time, that is undeserved and comes from some person’s incomplete understanding of the situation. This is life.

  60. Claudia February 7, 2016 at 4:26 am #

    I’m pretty sure I read stats that suggested there was a 10% chance of women *who were alcoholics* having a child with a foetal alcohol syndrome… in other words women are being told not to drink to prevent something that only has a 10% chance of happening even if you are an alcoholic. Basically, the message to pregnant women is ‘Women, you’re all silly drunken trollops who won’t be able to stop themselves after one drink, so don’t drink at all’ So don’t even get me started on this CD thing…

  61. lollipoplover February 7, 2016 at 7:26 am #

    “If you are of child-bearing age, and you are still considering producing children (or actively engaged in same), the decisions you make are no longer yours alone… they inherently involve someone else.”

    No, the decisions you make are still yours alone because women (still, hopefully) have rights to their own body.
    This isn’t the Handmaid’s Tale. Child-bearing age females are not baby incubators (yet).

    A decision to have a glass of wine during pregnancy does not have the same consequences on child development as growing up in a home with a d@ckhead, alcoholic father who subjects the child to domestic violence. The father’s actions will have a FAR greater effect on this child’s development.

    Pregnant women don’t need another warning on what not to do in pregnancy (everything) or your misogynist banter that their decisions, somehow, are not their own.

  62. andy February 7, 2016 at 8:44 am #

    @Claudia 10% chance for something like foetal alcohol syndrome is not *only* through. It is a lot. Those children have zero chance to get better and become normal independent adults, 10% of children being like that would a big deal.

    Of course, if you have a glass of wine once a week, that it has truly zero percent chance of happening.

  63. Anna February 7, 2016 at 8:47 am #

    “Getting back to the big issue, I don’t see a solution.
    If you are of child-bearing age, and you are still considering producing children (or actively engaged in same), the decisions you make are no longer yours alone… they inherently involve someone else”

    The reason I took you up on your Thalidomide example, is that it is, in fact, the same big issue, and you’re wrong about it. No I don’t mean we should use Thalidomide, but as long as instructions are issued to pregnant women that are not based on evidence (as medicine is normally supposed to be, and is on any masculine issues I’m aware of) with the leading principle being “let’s be on the safe side,” no safe anti-emetic will be developed for pregnant women.

    As it is, doctors tell women to avoid all kinds of things that are not known to cause harm, whose avoidance causes difficulty and even pain. E.g., when I had a horrible toothache and needed emergency dental work during pregnancy, I was told I could take only Tylenol (for toothache – yeah right!). Researching later I realized the only reason they tell us we can’t use Advil is because there is strong suspicion (not certainty) that another NSAID, aspirin, caused harm in pregnancy, not any actual evidence that Advil causes harm. But we don’t know for sure if it’s safe or how much is safe, so we’d better tell women to just deal with the pain.

    The trouble with the “We don’t know how much X is safe so avoid it altogether” principle is obvious if you start putting other things in for X besides alcohol (or soft cheese, warm baths, exercise, sushi, the list goes on ad infinitum. . . ) I can put absolutely anything in there and the first half is still true: protein, Vitamin C, carrots, oxygen, you name it. We don’t have studies showing how much of these things is safe, and studies on human fetuses would be unethical, so better avoid them!

    If you think I’m exaggerating, you should read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and see that I’m really not.

  64. James Pollock February 7, 2016 at 10:15 am #

    “‘If you are of child-bearing age, and you are still considering producing children (or actively engaged in same), the decisions you make are no longer yours alone… they inherently involve someone else.’

    No, the decisions you make are still yours alone because women (still, hopefully) have rights to their own body.”

    Oops. You took a detour there.
    Did you notice that my original is not limited to women? Or about rights? Because it is not. Deciding to make a baby limits your choices. You no longer can live a nice, free carefree lifestyle, because you have responsibilities. This has always been true for women, and has become true for men, as well (no more skulking off in the night and denying paternity, thanks to DNA testing.)
    I was a single parent. This meant that my career didn’t advance for a decade, because I reached the point where taking on a more responsible job would have come with 24/7 availability requirements and/or travel requirements, and I needed to be home at night.

    “Pregnant women don’t need another warning on what not to do in pregnancy (everything) or your misogynist banter that their decisions, somehow, are not their own.”
    Since I didn’t bring any misogyny to this discussion, if you’re seeing some misogyny, it’s because you brought it with you.

  65. James Pollock February 7, 2016 at 10:43 am #

    “as long as instructions are issued to pregnant women that are not based on evidence (as medicine is normally supposed to be, and is on any masculine issues I’m aware of)”
    There was a time when doctors were saying that chronic pot use damaged the sex cells. I don’t know if they’re still claiming this. And exposure to radioactive materials and ionizing radiation.
    As I tried to explain, and you expanded on, there’s good reasons why something that is known to cause malformed infants will not be researched to find a safe level. Those reason include legal (if the doctor says that X amount is safe, and it turns out that in this particular case, that particular amount is not safe, that’s malpractice, and the doctor’s insurance company pays out.) and ethical (if the doctor says X amount is safe, and it turns out to not be, then there’s a child suffering because of the doctor’s actions. “First, do no harm”.)

    “with the leading principle being “let’s be on the safe side,” no safe anti-emetic will be developed for pregnant women.”
    I’m not following. Why not?
    A few moments with Google led to “Several medications, including pyridoxine and doxylamine, have been shown to be safe and effective treatments.”

    “As it is, doctors tell women to avoid all kinds of things that are not known to cause harm, whose avoidance causes difficulty and even pain.”
    People who aren’t doctors have been known to do this, too. It’s a trait of humanity. This is why McDonald’s is a huge corporation. McD’s burgers aren’t the best. But, if you want into any McD’s in America and order a Big Mac, you know EXACTLY what you’re going to get. Going to a local dining establishment, you might get something way, way better, or you might get something worse… enough American’s choose “safety” at the drive-through to keep McDonald’s lovin’ it.

    “If you think I’m exaggerating, you should read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and see that I’m really not.”
    Hmmm. I read it a couple of decades ago, when my now ex-wife first got pregnant. I think I’ve got a while to go yet before the next generation, and besides, she’s studying for medical school.

    On the other hand, I have seen the results of stillbirth and crib death at very close range. Once you’ve been around it, if you have any empathy at all, you want to keep anyone else from every having to feel it (intellectually, you know that this is just not possible. Doesn’t keep you from trying.)

  66. Robin NZ February 7, 2016 at 11:39 am #

    I usually agree with everything Lenore says and with her tone as well, but not this time I’m sorry. As a midwife and a health professional who works with people transitioning to parenthood, I have seen all too often what just “a little bit” of alcohol can do to a child’s brain when it was ingested as a fetus. Some this is timing, some is luck (we can all tell the story about the relative who lived to 100 while smoking everyday since they were a teenager, but would you want your child to start smoking on the off chance they might be lucky too?).

    The CDC advice was sound, but very badly put.

    And it’s not just any hypothetical unborn babies that women need to keep in mind. There is now sound research that clearly demonstrates that the combination of alcohol and estrogen increases breast cancer rates. A leading (woman) researcher in this field recently stated that while she personally has not stopped drinking, she does ask herself first if ‘this drink is worth it’. So that drink with friends or family is fine, but going out on a Saturday night with the aim of getting pissed, not so much.

    You can shout about women’s right to choose till you are hoarse, but you can’t trump physiology because it doesn’t give a rat’s a** about your right to choose anything.

  67. Emily February 7, 2016 at 12:51 pm #

    Of course women should take precautions while pregnant, or while trying to conceive, but it’s the “childbearing age” thing that bothers me. I’m a woman of childbearing age, and while I could probably deliver a healthy baby with the way I live now (I exercise regularly, I eat a healthy vegan diet, and my only real vice is caffeine), I really don’t want to have a baby, because I know in my heart that I’m not ready. I also stopped drinking alcohol shortly before I was 21, because at the time, I was attending a real “party” university, and I saw the damage that alcohol could cause. So, I have no desire to have a baby, or to drink alcohol, but I think that both of those things should be my decision, and not the government’s decision. Sure, it may be “just a suggestion/guideline/pearl of wisdom” now, but these things have a way of evolving into being mandatory over time; just like mentality of “children must be supervised 24/7,” and “people must be reachable 24/7.” Our society may have accepted this as normal, but we shouldn’t. Children shouldn’t be treated like babies or prisoners until they’re eighteen, people shouldn’t feel tied down to their cell phones, and Lenore is right; women are people, not just walking wombs.

  68. James Pollock February 7, 2016 at 1:10 pm #

    “Of course women should take precautions while pregnant, or while trying to conceive, but it’s the ‘childbearing age’ thing that bothers me. I’m a woman of childbearing age […] I really don’t want to have a baby, because I know in my heart that I’m not ready.”

    Aside from the fact nobody’s ever REALLY ready, I think the point is that sometimes people conceive children without intending to do so, and apparently, in a few cases, without even realizing that they have done so.

    So if you would say something along the lines of, “well, if I were pregnant, I would stop/cut down on (whatever)”, they’re just pointing out “hey, you know, you might already BE pregnant, and just not know it yet.”

    Once upon a time, states took a more active role in patrolling people’s sex lives (or at least, they tried with varying measures of success.) The recent trend has been the removal of such efforts, whether by act of legislature, voters, or courts. It was once considered appropriate for the state to choose sterilization for some (undesirable, obviously) citizens. The trend is towards more freedom to choose what kind of sex you’d like to have and with whom, not less.

  69. Jessica February 7, 2016 at 1:55 pm #

    Something else I recalled when dosing myself for a cold last night is that even Nyquil is verboten during pregnancy because it has alcohol. Dayquil is fine, and the alcohol is the only difference. An adult dose is 30 mL and the medicine is 10% alcohol, which means even 3 mL of alcohol so you can actually get a good night’s rest is too much. I took it anyway. Also, in regards to the “we don’t know for sure, so better safe than sorry” attitude, with my first, I asked my doc to prescribe me Zyrtec to help control my eczema after he was born. But because I was breastfeeding, the doc quite literally told me that better safe than sorry, never mind that I was miserable and I knew Zyrtec wan’t dangerous and had helped before. It was very paternalistic, and I ended up just buying it OTC and using it anyway. I never understood the docs who thought a miserable or in pain mom is better than the very minimal risk that comes from giving them permission to take care of themselves.

  70. anonymous mom February 7, 2016 at 3:22 pm #

    @Robin, “As a midwife and a health professional who works with people transitioning to parenthood, I have seen all too often what just ‘a little bit’ of alcohol can do to a child’s brain when it was ingested as a fetus.”

    The thing is, many women do REALLY mean “a little bit.” Are you honestly saying that you have seen cases where a child’s brain was damaged because, when the mother was 5 or 6 weeks pregnant, she drank a single beer or had a glass of wine? Because I don’t buy it. If it were that ridiculously easy to cause brain damage to fetuses, we would not have made it this far.

    As I said above, with my first pregnancy, between the time I conceived and the time I realized I was pregnant (about 5-1/2 weeks in), I had two drinks. Not “two,” meaning really six, but actually two. We had taken the previous month off from TTC after six months of actively trying with no luck, and I decided to try to get my mind off babies by having fun and attending a couple of parties my grad school colleagues were having as the term started up again. At one I had a beer, and at another, the next week, I had one glass of wine. That was it. I was worried I might have caused damage when I realized I was pregnant, but both my nurse practitioner and my OB could not have reassured me strongly enough that there was literally no possible way that that amount of alcohol at that point in the pregnancy could cause ANY harm to my child. And, no harm was done, not because of luck, but because babies in utero are just not so fragile that the mom consuming even small amount of alcohol will damage them.

    My third child was a surprise, and I found out I was pregnant when my second was only seven months old. I had, after she turned four or five months, begun having the occasional drink (again, I really mean “occasional,” maybe a single beer or glass of wine every two weeks or so). I got pregnant before my period returned (ladies, breastfeeding really does not protect you from pregnancy, even when combined with withdrawal!), and didn’t realize I was pregnant until about 7 weeks in. Again, my OB (a different one this time) assured me there was no possible way the 2-3 drinks total I may have consumed before I realized I was pregnant could have caused any harm to child. None.

    Given that both of these kids were reading before they turned 4, I’m seriously doubting the small amount of alcohol I consumed inadvertently before realized I was pregnant did them any harm at all, and I trust my doctors that it couldn’t have. Again, FAS would be near universal if a single drink or two in very early pregnancy was enough to cause harm.

    Sure, binge-drinking or heavy drinking in pregnancy is dangerous, but they are always dangerous! Nobody should binge drink, ever. It’s a terrible idea. So of course, if you plan on getting pregnant, you should not binge drink. But, if you are a genuinely light drinker, and might have a glass of wine a few nights a week with dinner or a beer on the weekends when you watch a game, it just seems a huge overreaction to say that you need to stop that if there’s any possibility you might get pregnant. That kind of drinking in early pregnancy will not and cannot harm the embryo, which is getting nutrients from the yolk sac early on anyway because the placenta hasn’t even formed. If and when you do get pregnant, you can give up drinking entirely or, if you want, talk to your OB about whether an occasional drink is still something you can or should do.

    Funny story: I don’t drink when I know I’m pregnant, because I rarely drink anyway. When I was maybe seven months pregnant with my last child, I completely forgot I was pregnant one evening, when my husband was drinking a beer. I asked if I could have some, drank about half of it, and then noticed him looking at me funny. I was like, “What?” and he just pointed at my belly. I was like, “Uh, why didn’t you say something?” He said he was not going to get between a pregnant woman and anything she wanted to eat or drink. 😉 My baby seems none the worse for that half a beer, either.

  71. Emily February 7, 2016 at 4:30 pm #

    James, when I said that I don’t want to have a baby because I’m not ready, I meant that I’m actively taking steps to prevent having a baby, because I’m not ready. You’re right; I should have been clearer.

  72. Michelle February 7, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

    “Actually, there would perhaps be a point, and if not of Thalidomide, of other anti-nausea meds for pregnant women, and the fact that drug companies totally dropped such research after Thalidomide is about litigation, not what’s best for women and babies. As one lawyer I read on the topic put it, in every 1000 births, there are a certain number of random birth defects. Whether an anti-nausea drug caused them or not, the lawyers will trot them out in court and the drug company will lose big, so nobody even tries to develop anything.”

    This is not really true. There is already a completely safe and effective anti-nausea drug for pregnant women called doxylamine. It’s been widely used outside the US for years. It was used in the US for a while, until the drug companies voluntarily pulled it because they didn’t want to deal with false accusations that it caused birth defects. There has never been any research showing it to be dangerous, but that doesn’t matter in the court of public opinion. (See: vaccines.) You can buy it over the counter as Unisom, but some US doctors are starting to prescribe it again. Mine offered me a prescription when I was pregnant with my now 2yo, but it was cheaper to just buy over the counter. After suffering horrendous 24-hour “morning sickness” throughout all of my previous five pregnancies, it was a miracle cure!

  73. andy February 7, 2016 at 5:08 pm #

    I think that there is small army of people who want everybody else to stop drinking entirely. Prohibition is not possible, so they will exaggerate any negative effect of alcohol as much as possible while ignoring any positive effects. They will also try to redefine what “problem with alcohol” means, for example by claiming that if you dont want to become abstinent at least a year you already have a problem.

    Pregnant women are just easiest target for that.

    Like, midwifes and a health professionals who managed to observe what neither clinical study ever managed – damaged baby when mom drunk a cup of wine three times a week. Just stop it already.

    It is insulting. Yes, there are communities of young women who are borderline alcoholics or junkies and consume big amounts or it. Yes, it is a problem. No, it is not majority of women and your assumption they represent average women and therefore average women needs to be lied to is insulting to all ordinary average women.

    Oh yes, and then there is very tiny army of people who think women should go back to standard of non-drinking as it was years ago. Stated reasons are various, the real reason is that that is how it was when they were young in their parents social circles. Those are generally old and increasingly matter of history.

  74. andy February 7, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

    Medical drugs are not assumed to be safe until proven otherwise, they are assumed to be unsafe until validated by clinical tests. Drugs for pregnant women have different clinical tests (for example they involve pregnant women as test subjects more the normal drugs). Body is different during pregnancy and there is foetus too.

    Doctor should not prescribe non tested drug to non-pregnant adults either and their refusal to prescribe non-tested drugs to pregnant women are pretty much the same thing.

  75. David February 7, 2016 at 5:36 pm #

    But why stop just with alcoholic beverages? Even bread usually contains trace amounts of alcohol so women should be forbidden that too. Admittedly it’s only present in extremely tiny amounts but better safe than sorry!

    And why stop just with alcohol? Maternal stress is bad for the unborn child so obviously women who are pregnant or might become pregnant should not be allowed in stressful occupations. Or any occupation for that matter as any job, even one you love and are very good at is bound to be stressful sometimes. And naturally such women should not be allowed hobbies such as golf or painting or playing an instrument as they might sometimes find that frustrating. Nor should they be permitted to read literature or listen to music or watch television as that might evoke strong emotions.

    Of course young women are not likely to consent to such a regime, I therefore suggest, purely in the interests of the unborn child you understand, that every female be lobotomised at the onset of puberty. She can then be happily kept in a hermetically sealed plastic bubble, where she will be exposed only to carefully filtered air, fed intravenously with chemically pure nutrients and repeatedly impregnated so she can fulfil her biological destiny unfettered by such silly notions as individual freedom and personal autonomy.

    I know lobotomy sounds a bit drastic but it’s surely better than long term use of tranquillizers; we don’t want to expose the foetus to any such nasty chemicals. And requiring a young woman to sacrifice her intelligence and sense of personal identity is not too much to ask to insure her children are as healthy as possible. That surely trumps every other consideration.

  76. Papilio February 7, 2016 at 5:59 pm #

    @David: You wouldn’t have to do that to EVERY female – just pick a few that are physically healthy with wide hips for easy laboring and then let them be surrogate mother for everyone else…

  77. pentamom February 7, 2016 at 9:09 pm #

    Unisom is diphenhydramine, better known as Benadryl. But I agree with Michelle otherwise.

  78. pentamom February 7, 2016 at 9:12 pm #

    Andy, I’m not aware of any time in history, barring Prohibition in the U.S. (which hardly any living person even remembers anymore) when women in particular didn’t drink. Prior to the mid-19th century, except for various small ascetic religious sects (and Islam), avoidance of alcohol wasn’t considered a particular virtue, though moderation was.

  79. pentamom February 7, 2016 at 9:14 pm #

    I should clarify — I’m aware of NO time in history when it was considered wrong for women in particular to drink. And barring Prohibition, I’m not aware of any time when not drinking was considered socially proper for most people. And prior to the mid-19th century, nobody *at all* outside of Islam and some small religious sects with very little general influence, considered abstaining from alcohol entirely to be a virtue.

  80. andy February 8, 2016 at 3:12 am #

    @pentamom Not in the total abstinence sense, but women going into pub with girl-friends and sitting behind beer would be baaaad, socially unacceptable, etc. There were different standards. Women would not go together and drunk beer the way it is perfectly normal to see now. It relaxed continuously, some places slower then others (female alcoholism rates rose up accordingly through ).

    I run into article that was discussing pretty much this topic and found it interesting, that is why I remember it. It is one of those things that truly almost died.

  81. Anna February 8, 2016 at 9:32 am #

    “There is already a completely safe and effective anti-nausea drug for pregnant women called doxylamine. It’s been widely used outside the US for years. It was used in the US for a while, until the drug companies voluntarily pulled it because they didn’t want to deal with false accusations that it caused birth defects. There has never been any research showing it to be dangerous, but that doesn’t matter in the court of public opinion.”

    Right – that was actually my point though, that they’d rather not risk selling it in the U.S. (Should have specified here.) It’s used in Canada, I know.

  82. lollipoplover February 8, 2016 at 10:07 am #

    “There is already a completely safe and effective anti-nausea drug for pregnant women called doxylamine. It’s been widely used outside the US for years. It was used in the US for a while, until the drug companies voluntarily pulled it because they didn’t want to deal with false accusations that it caused birth defects. There has never been any research showing it to be dangerous, but that doesn’t matter in the court of public opinion.”

    Doxylamine is Unisom. It’s an antihistamine.

    Diclegis (brand name), from the Canadian company Duchensnay, is the only drug indicated for severe morning sickness (NVP). It is an antihistamine and a B-6 supplement and Pregnancy Category A, considered the safest for pregnancy.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/fda-approves-morning-sickness-pill-pulled-market/story?id=18914496

    What’s interesting is that Zofran (from GSK) is considered the gold standard for treating vomiting and nausea in pregnancy. It was on the hospital formulary when I was admitted for NVP and dehydration during my first pregnancy. It is not even indicated for NVP and this is an off-label use- it’s indicated for the nausea and vomiting caused by surgery and cancer. It’s Pregnancy Category B. Some studies in pregnant women have linked Zofran to congenital heart defects, others find it safe. But it’s not even an approved use and the FDA doesn’t seem to be cracking down on the off-label use in pregnancy when there’s obviously a safer choice.

  83. pentamom February 8, 2016 at 10:22 am #

    AH! I see where the confusion is.

    Unisom is both diphenhydramine and doxylamine. The tablets are diphenhyrdramine, the gel tabs are doxylamine.

    The problem with Zofran is (and I’ve learned this from experience with migraines) is that you have to take it before you are really nauseous, or it doesn’t really work. This is how it is given to cancer patients — in anticipation of chemo, not when they feel sick. I finally figured that out recently and took it as soon as I started feeling a little queasy. If I wait until I feel like I’m really fighting vomiting, it’s too late.

  84. pentamom February 8, 2016 at 10:38 am #

    Sure, drinking in public was frowned upon for women for a few hundred years maybe between the 18th and early 20th centuries. But we’re talking about letting a drop of liquor (or wine or beer) pass your lips, not time, place, and manner. There’s no “good old days” to hark back to when it was generally believed in Western society that a woman shouldn’t have a glass of wine with dinner. So I really doubt that attitude is playing into it. I think it’s much more about believing you can be in control, and should be in control of everything possible, and failing to exert that control in every way possible is just the same thing as being reckless. “If there’s just one tiny thing I can do to help my baby” etc., etc.

  85. Donna February 8, 2016 at 12:09 pm #

    “Not in the total abstinence sense, but women going into pub with girl-friends and sitting behind beer would be baaaad, socially unacceptable, etc.”

    How far back are we supposed to being going for these “good ole days?” There was no point in my life, my mother’s life or my 85 year old grandmother’s life when women going out and drinking was socially unacceptable. It tended to be more groups of couples going out than Girl’s Night Out, but that was more a reflection of how socialization was done at the time than any view about women and drinking. Girl’s Night Out for married women is a fairly recent phenomenon. My much older set of grandparents didn’t drink at all so are not a good gauge as to what was the norm in the pre-WWII era, but I’ve seen pictures and heard stories of my younger set of grandparents’ partying days post-WWII.

  86. lollipoplover February 8, 2016 at 1:46 pm #

    @Donna- My mother didn’t go bar hopping with her married friends for a Girls Night Out, she did Girls Day In, also known as their Bridge Club. They rotated houses, drank and smoked during their games, and kids were not even allowed in the house. She socialized and enjoyed a drink or two during these games and they did potluck food.
    Drinking alcohol was never unacceptable, most of her friends enjoyed their Manhattans and Gin and Tonics (and time away from their kids).

  87. anonymous mom February 8, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

    In nearly all times and places since alcohol has been consumed, women have consumed alcohol. Yes, drinking in certain places or drinking certain types of alcoholic beverages may not have been socially-acceptable in some cultures, but there are very few places where women were prohibited, either legally or socially, from drinking.

    And that makes this idea that somehow any amount of alcohol, no matter how small, consumed at any point during the pregnancy, no matter how early, can cause harm even more absurd. Women today can find out when they are pregnant far earlier and more easily than women at any time in history. You can buy a $1 pregnancy test at the local dollar store that can detect HCG the day your period is due or earlier. Sure, some women don’t know they are pregnant until 8 or 10 or 12 weeks, but even that is still earlier than many women historically may have known they were pregnant.

    If we assume that women have drank alcohol in moderation in nearly all cultures for millenia, and that for most of that time they wouldn’t have realized they were pregnant until later than most women today do–not to mention that there was far less awareness of the dangers of alcohol in pregnancy–we’d have to assume that FAS would be wildly epidemic, perhaps even present in more babies than not, if light drinking in the first weeks of a pregnancy was enough to cause it.

    It’s not. Period. Of course if some woman considers having four glasses of wine a night “light drinking,” that’s different, but that doesn’t mean that there is no such thing objectively as “light drinking” or that because four glasses of wine a night can cause problems, one glass of wine twice a week in the first three weeks of pregnancy will. Most adult women drink, most adult women do not give up drinking completely before they start trying to have a baby, and most will continue to drink until they learn they are pregnant. That does not seem to be at all associated with risk to the baby, and that’s what’s at issue here. The CDC is not saying that pregnant women shouldn’t drink; it’s saying that women who could potentially become pregnant should not drink. And that’s what I think is completely absurd, because in reality the amount of alcohol that most women consume will not even potentially harm an embryo even if the women doesn’t learn she is pregnant until 8 or 9 weeks (again, the placenta doesn’t even begin forming until week 8, before which point the already-established yolk sac provides nutrition, not the mother’s bloodstream).

  88. Donna February 8, 2016 at 2:20 pm #

    lollipoplover – My grandmother did that as well, although I think they played games other than bridge (rummy, spades). She has told me many times that they would rock the babies on their laps while they drank, smoke and played cards.

    As a caveat to that, we believe my aunt has fetal alcohol syndrome, although never diagnosed as such as she pre-dates its existence as a diagnosis. However, by the time my aunt came along, my grandmother was drinking quite heavily, not just socially.

  89. Catherine Caldwell-Harris February 8, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

    HI all —
    Alcohol during pregnancy is not “safe” unless it is small, like, a single glass of wine a couple times a week. Not daily ingestion.

    There are plenty of scientific studies showing that alcohol had a dose dependent effect on the developing fetus. One drink a day led to on average, a 6-point decrease in IQ. A six point drop is not what I wish on any child, although agreed, is is small. The average IQ for middle-class families where the parents went to college is 108-112. So a six point drop, and the kid still has normal intelligence. But a kid growing up in poverty may have an IQ in the low 90s (below average) even if the mother doesn’t drink, because poverty is a sledge-hammer to the brain. So the one drink a day of her mother puts her IQ in the range where she will have developmental delays and learning disabilities — plus the poor diet and lead paint exposure common for poverty.

    And if her mother drinks 2 drinks per day, that is a 12 point drop. That is quite a bit. A child who would have had a 120 IQ — above average range — is pushed down and becomes average in intelligence.

    So there is a reason that so many middle-class parents can be social /moderate drinkers and the effect isn’t observable — but this doesn’t mean the alcohol had no effect. The effect is small but the distribution of outcomes is shifted downward.

    Have you head of the Flynn effect? IQs rose steadily through-out the 20th century. I big part of this may be the cessation of alcohol during pregnancy (and other health improvements, less lead paint, more stimulation in childhood, less coercive parenting, etc).

  90. Donna February 8, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

    “There are plenty of scientific studies showing that alcohol had a dose dependent effect on the developing fetus. One drink a day led to on average, a 6-point decrease in IQ.”

    How exactly would there be scientific evidence of this? Have there been a statistically relevant number of identical twins gestated in two separate women – one whom drank and one who didn’t?

  91. anonymous mom February 8, 2016 at 2:46 pm #

    Again, though, the CDC is NOT talking about drinking *during* pregnancy here; they are talking about drinking before pregnancy. They are saying that women should either abstain completely from alcohol or go on birth control if they have not yet gone through menopause.

    They are saying that, even if you just drink a single beer each week while you watch a football game on Sunday, or have one glass of wine each week when you go out with friends on Friday, AND you plan to stop drinking when and if you find out you are pregnant, that is still not okay. You either give up your once-a-week drink immediately or get on birth control.

  92. anonymous mom February 8, 2016 at 2:54 pm #

    And one drink a day for how long? Every day the entire pregnancy? Were there other factors involved? Are women who have a drink or two every single day during pregnancy less likely to receive consistent prenatal care? More likely to be poor? More likely to have other problems that might also be correlated with lower IQ?

    I don’t see any way a controlled study involving alcohol consumption of pregnant women could receive human subjects approval, so I’m assuming this is all after-the-fact survey reporting. Is it possible that women might under-report how much they drank during pregnancy? (If I were asked if I drank during pregnancy, I’d say no. However, in each of my pregnancies I had 1-3 drinks total. However, that’s so little it would seem silly to report it as “light drinking,” especially since most was before I even knew I was pregnant.)

    There are many reasons to discourage everybody from binge drinking, and good reasons to discourage pregnant women from drinking regularly. There is, however, no reason to encourage women who could potentially become pregnant to entire abstain, especially if they already drink just a couple of drinks a week or less.

  93. lena February 10, 2016 at 8:11 pm #

    so since I’m infertile I can drink as much as i want!

  94. BMS February 16, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

    I am pretty sure I owe my existence to several cosmopolitans, at least based on the stories my mom told…