Many medical experts say it's OK for pregnant woman to have one or two glasses of wine a week, and drinking while pregnant is common in Europe. So why is moderate drinking during pregnancy still taboo in America?
While the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists still says that "no amount of alcohol consumption can be considered safe during pregnancy," the New York Post reports that a 2009 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found children whose mothers had one or two drinks per week while pregnant did not have an increased risk of cognitive defects compared to those who had no alcohol.
One mom tells the Post that her doctor actually told her to "go home and drink a glass of wine," after having an amniocentesis test because it would help calm painful uterine contractions after the procedure. This would surprise many American moms, but not Europeans; 2008 study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research said more than 50 percent of French women drank at least once during their pregnancy, compared to only 12 percent of American women.
Obviously, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a serious problem, and there are concerns about the effect alcohol has on a woman's health even if she isn't pregnant (just today, a study was released that suggests drinking increasing a woman's chance of developing breast cancer.) However, medical experts suggest that the information being presented to American women on drinking is inaccurate. Dr. Randi Hutter Epstein, author of Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth From the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank tells the Post:
The truth is, if you look at who's born with fetal alcohol syndrome, their mothers were alcoholics - not one drink a week [women] ... I feel strongly that all of our anti-alcohol messages are just targeting the wrong audience.
It seems the American hysteria over drinking is based less on facts and more on the idea that women can't be trusted to make decisions about their health or drink responsibly. Perhaps the fear is that telling American women that they can have a glass of wine while pregnant will send the message to those who are alcoholics that it's alright to have three, or four, or an entire bottle. But does that justifying lying to the majority of women, and causing a pregnant woman to have a panic attack after realizing she ate a dish cooked in wine, or used an alcohol-based mouthwash?
Even when presented with the facts, it's likely that many American women would choose not to drink while pregnant. Though the study on pregnant French women found that most women are having an occasional drink, there's still a large percentage that aren't. But that's a decision women should be allowed to make after getting honest medical advice from their doctors. Is a waitress refusing to show a pregnant woman a wine list or strangers shooting a pregnant woman dirty looks for having half a glass of champagne on New Year's Eve actually doing anything to combat Fetal Alcohol Syndrome? Or is all this fear-mongering just feeding into the idea that women aren't smart enough to make responsible decisions about their own health?
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