This week I’ve taken some major heat from those desiring to educate on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder via several social medias after releasing my blog post, “Pass the wine? The study suggests moderate drinking in pregnancy increases mental health” which played Devil’s advocate by referencing supportive findings on both sides of the fence regarding consumption of alcohol in pregnancy.
I assumed this may receive some negative kickback due to the very controversial and sensitive topic. Perhaps even misinterpreting the message, marking the wrong enemy and arguing a doula’s attempt to present a full spectrum of evidence based research on the topic many parents are secretly, and not so secretly questioning, is against a moral and ethical responsibility to promote healthy pregnancy, births, and babies.
Without possibly reading the content, the blog became retweeted with hashtags stating it was incomprehensible and irresponsible providing misinformation. I thought to myself, “Gee, wouldn’t they want a pregnant woman considering an alcoholic drink to click on my blog post and then find they also have access to FACT SHEETS from the National Institute of Health to support the opposition as well?”
My references are from the US National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health. American Academy of Pediatrics states, “There is no KNOWN ABSOLUTELY safe amount of alcohol” in pregnancy. The wording is referring to an absolute and a big question mark meaning they haven’t determined what it is or IF there is one.
Though one systematic review in 2007 of 40+ studies suggested babies were born healthy to women who admitted to consuming alcohol at a moderate rate (1-2 drinks per week) while pregnant, it has still remained the recommendation to abstain completely as scientists have not determined if or what threshold causes FASD. And wouldn’t it be unethical to push for determination in a controlled study? Yes.
There is also another systematic review of 21 studies which claims a link of alcohol consumption in pregnancy and childhood leukemia.
Most referenced documents pushed at me as a form of education were pieces from organizations with noble agenda because, yes, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder is indeed 100% PREVENTABLE. But they are agendas nonetheless. I completely and wholeheartedly sympathize with the angst and associated pain with being a caretaker to a loved one who is a victim of FASD.
The fact is some women will consume alcohol during pregnancy. Fortunately for some, not every sip has lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Spectrum Disorders.
I’m not here to shame anyone. In fact, I hope that any expectant woman would feel comfortable enough to ask me to help them find the evidence because they have or are considering indulging in that adult beverage and would like to make an informed decision on whether or not they will lift that glass. And the only way to have that level of trust is by offering nonjudgmental and compassionate support.
And that’s what the blog was all about – YOUR Informed Decision with a full spectrum of EVIDENCE and MY support.
Please do not use blogs to make important decisions about your body and baby. if a blog post peeks your interest look for referenced research links from REPUTABLE and UNBIASED authorities such as US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health, Cochrane, World Health Organization, The American Academy of Pediatrics, etc. and research yourself.
I have made an informed decision to stop engaging with those who feel they need me to take their side because of their personal pain because, really, there is no winning in that situation. Their pain is truly difficult, real and heartbreaking – and anything 100% not for them is 100% against their reality. If only these adoptive parents had a doula supporting them in their lives… unconditional support.
As a professional birth doula, never offering medical advice and instead providing reputable evidence and unconditional support of women’s autonomy throughout pregnancy, birth, and parenthood without judgment is part of a Doula’s Code of Ethics. We trust every woman is fully capable of making the best decision for her and her baby.
My opinion doesn’t matter; PERIOD. My guidance to discovery for yourself WILL.
The statement of the amount of alcohol to cause FASD is unknown is directly from a reputable source: the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors and found directly on the National Institute of Health which states “Scientists have not established the minimum amount of alcohol needed to produce harmful effects in exposed children (Roebuck et al., 1999). Clearly, the safest approach is to completely avoid alcohol during pregnancy.” which can be found here: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/NASADAD/PrenatalBrief2.htm
A 2007 review (You may find at the US National Library of Medicine here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17233797)included 46 studies which assessed whether consuming alcohol during pregnancy led to problems in pregnancy or birth including miscarriage, stillbirth, intrauterine growth restriction, premature, low birth weight or birth defects. It found no adverse effects on the child when the mother consumed low levels of alcohol during pregnancy.
Another review measuring similar outcomes – small fetus, low birth weight and preterm birth – found that consuming up to one drink per day had no effect on babies, but more than one drink a day did lead to increased risks for the baby across all three categories. (Still looking for my original source for this…)
One review concluded alcohol consumption during pregnancy led to negative outcomes for children. The review – which included a total of 21 studies – examined the association between alcohol consumption during pregnancy and childhood leukemia. It found at levels as low as one drink for a week, maternal alcohol consumption was associated with an increased risk of acute myeloid leukemia. You can find here at the US National Library of Medicine: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20447918
No woman feels more judged in her life than when she is in a public place, showing her pregnancy, and holding an adult beverage.
The horror! Passers by raising their torches and pitchforks and silently curse the mother daring to indulge in anything containing alcohol, declaring she is dooming her baby to the dreaded Fetal Alcohol Syndrome at that very moment. Doulas are asked about alcohol consumption by our clients from time to time. It’s an ongoing conversation throughout pregnancy since it’s a rather controversial topic.
Let’s examine the facts.
For these reasons most providers, both midwives and OB/GYN’s, recommend not drinking at all throughout the pregnancy. Abstain completely.
However, there is one more fact that is often times overlooked or forgotten. Many women admit to drinking occasionally throughout their pregnancy without them and their babies suffer ill effects from it. (In pregnancy, “occasional” or “moderate” drinking is defined as 1-2 drinks a week). So there may be a balance; There is a safe level somewhere even if it eludes us.
Recently, a study was published about the effects of alcohol and pregnancy. Many of the findings were rather surprising.
For instance, children whose mothers had an occasional drink enjoyed better mental health than those who abstained completely. These findings certainly had other factors at play, but even when all of the controls were in place, the findings suggested the same. More research is certainly indicated, however, since experts in the field report that “correlation does not prove causation.” They continue to recommend abstaining.
So is it fair to say that moderate drinking has the potential to prove beneficial to some women? According to this study, it certainly warrants discussion. Further research is indicated in the matter of health benefits of drinking in pregnancy, along with moderate consumption.
In the end, it’s important for women to have all the facts so they can make an educated decision. While it’s true that nobody knows for sure exactly if or how much alcohol is safe in pregnancy, it’s also true that many women who indulge in an occasional drink do just fine.
Doulas are experts in gathering information and helping women to make informed decisions once they have all the facts. We would never dare to try and tell you what to do with your own body.
Check this fact sheet from the National Institute of Health. And here is some more pertinent information about risks with drinking during pregnancy.
You know yourself and your body best, and your decision to consume alcohol in pregnancy deserves to be an informed one. Know the risks – and possible benefits – for yourself and proceed accordingly.
***Edited to add: This blog post is stated as a question to referenced study & the blog itself is about gathering evidence for the informed decision. You make the informed decision for your body. I have no medical authority to make any suggestions to consume or not consume alcohol during pregnancy and this article does not suggest such. That would be beyond the scope of a doula.