Is Wine Safe During Pregnancy?

For moms-to-be, there’s no shortage of info on every single pregnancy topic under the sun, and a whole lot of conflicting info…

Don’t eat deli meat.

Do eat deli meat, but only if twice-heated.

Don’t eat tuna.

Do eat tuna, but only the “light” kind.

Don’t drink caffeinated beverages.

Do drink caffeinated beverages, but only small amounts.

And always among the most popular Google questions moms-to-be have:
Drink or don’t drink wine? 

It’s a hot topic of serious concern. 

The risk of drinking alcohol during pregnancy is the potential for a baby to develop Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). The Mayo Clinic states that FAS “…causes brain damage and growth problems…There is no amount of alcohol that’s known to be safe to consume during pregnancy.”  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) agrees: “There is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant.” Same for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):“…no amount of alcohol should be considered safe to drink during any trimester of pregnancy.” 

The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) explains: “A developing baby is exposed to the same concentration of alcohol as the mother during pregnancy. Any amount of alcohol, even the alcohol in one glass of wine, passes through the placenta from the mother to the growing baby.”

So, it seems straight forward: No Wine. None whatsoever. 

But not so fast, because then you stumble upon a Harvard Medical School study reporting, “Minimal alcohol use during the first trimester doesn’t appear to increase the risk for high blood pressure complications, or premature birth or low birth weights.” And Emily Oster, economist and author of Expecting Better, argues there isn’t enough evidence to rule out wine sipping in small amounts. In her 2015 article for Time, she states: “The bottom line is that while there is clear evidence of the dangers of heavy drinking—especially binge drinking—in pregnancy, the same cannot be said for low levels of alcohol consumption.”

This ping-pong of conflicting info can be really stressful: especially if you’re worried about alcohol you drank before you realized you were pregnant. 

This piece in The Telegraph goes way out on a limb and claims not only does moderate drinking not harm your baby, but doing so may even have benefits…what? And an article in Medical News Today cites a study that addresses both sides of the coin: “The research team found an 8 percent increase in the risk of having a small baby and a 10 percent increase in the risk of preterm delivery in women who drank around two alcoholic drinks per week…the evidence we have analyzed refers to light drinking, that the effects we have found are small, and that overall there is still some uncertainty, for example on how light drinking in pregnancy affects other aspects of the baby’s health.”

OB/GYN Jen Gunter sums up the risk level in her 2019 New York Times piece: “The truth is that fetal alcohol syndrome is far more common than people think, and we have no ability to say accurately what level of alcohol consumption is risk-free.” According to Gunter, there aren’t enough studies on the effects of minimal drinking during pregnancy to call it safe or not. 

And that, moms-to-be, is the bottom line: Looking at the facts and making your own informed decision is what parenthood is all about.

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