Dr. Kim Foster: Wicked Health


Is A Glass Of Wine Okay During Pregnancy?

What Is The Safe Level?

For many of us, facing nine long months without our favourite indulgence is enough to make a girl break down and cry. (And that’s independent of all the hormonal changes of pregnancy that are making you...well, break down and cry.)

But how much truth is there to this?

We first recognized Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in the 1970s, and a huge public health campaign spread the word about this preventable tragedy. It was a sea change, to be sure—did you know in previous generations pregnant women in Ireland were advised to drink a small Guinness daily, to fortify themselves and their babies? Once we understood the dangers of alcohol in pregnancy, however, things quickly altered. For our generation, it has become accepted wisdom that alcohol is a big fat no-no in pregnancy. Heavy drinking, in particular.

But what about light, or occasional drinking?

Although many studies have shown there is potential harm at any level of alcohol intake, some recent research is creating controversy on this point. Very early results are suggesting that light drinking isn’t as harmful as we’ve feared. Some people have been reassured by these studies, but it’s confusing at best. And—it’s a slippery slope. What’s light intake? And isn’t it different for everyone?

In the past, I’ve been somewhat relaxed about the idea of a very occasional drink during pregnancy (like one a month, perhaps). But I have to admit, the more I’ve looked into the research, the less certain I am of this stance. To my eye, the research is preliminary, it’s limited, and the parameters are unclear.

The fact is, alcohol freely crosses the placenta. And I know what alcohol does to me. Am I comfortable with my unborn baby being exposed to that, even occasionally? Not really.

Sure, the research may eventually confirm that very light drinking in pregnancy won’t harm your baby...but we’re just not there yet. There simply isn’t sufficient research to show what a safe level is. And until there’s more rock solid evidence, I think caution is the only way to go.

When you know something is dangerous at high doses, and you don’t know what the lower limit is, the only logical thing to do is to abstain. I know nine months may feel like a long time without a glass of wine but, let’s face it, it’s a relatively short period in your lifetime. Especially when you consider what’s at stake.

There will be plenty of time for grownup drinks after your baby is born. (And there are plenty of things that are good about those drinks, too!)

But those are my thoughts—what are yours?