MOH Guidelines Regarding Drinking and Pregnancy

So here’s an unpopular opinion I’d like to share:

I did this research when I was considering having one single alcoholic drink while pregnant – that’s how vigilant I am. I didn’t even touch anything without reading this stuff first, many people wouldn’t bother. People were extremely panicked at the suggestion of me drinking one drink (going so far as to send me lengthy emails about the choice) and so I’d like to put their minds at ease on behalf of myself, and other women with the following information:

Light drinking (which means 1-2 standard drinks per week, taken separately, and no more) poses virtually 0 risk to babies and poses no statistically significant risk of fetal alcohol syndrome.

I’ll say it again:

Light drinking (which means 1-2 standard drinks per week, taken separately, and no more) poses virtually 0 risk to babies and poses no statistically significant risk of fetal alcohol syndrome.

Moderate to heavy drinking is absolutely not OK and must be avoided at all costs. This information has lately resulted in a lot of debate and discussion – particularly in the UK with many women calling for updated guidelines as a result. The UK updated their health guidelines, because it was a sensible response to the information, but some members of the public got really upset, and fearful and so they reverted the guideline change.

It seems taboo to suggest that MOH guidelines should be updated to reflect reality, yet it seems to me that women are capable of comprehending “one to two drinks – enjoyed separately – within a one-week period”. In my humble opinion and every woman wants what is best for her unborn child. No one doubts that alcohol can be very harmful to many families, so those pregnant women with substance abuse issues should never touch any alcohol, of course. They are in the unique position of potentially being incapable of following any guidelines and require specialist guidance and support. So the guidelines generally act for them, but include the assumption that the reader is capable of following the guideline. As far as guidelines go I think that is a fair assumption. We are not all substance abusers and we do not all require specialist support.

Personally I feel this is an important feminist issue (because of the misinformation, extreme moral panic and body policing that goes on generally, and especially when a woman is pregnant) and I think that since FAS does tend to target babies and families from lower classes, that is a social issue that needs to be addressed through other means rather than by infantilising women with a zero-tolerance stance. They will say that there has been no safe lower limit, but when you look at the research and what is reasonable – statistically speaking – it I reckon it is possible to establish a reasonable, safe lower limit.

Sometimes people say “Why take the risk?”, I guess my point is that there isn’t any statistically significant risk that has been shown at the very low level. Socially speaking there is more terror than is intellectually reasonable regarding the consumption of one beverage.

Here is some research that supports this view:

3 years
http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/38/1/129.short

5 years
http://jech.bmj.com/content/66/1/41.short

8 years
http://www.aim-digest.com/gateway/pages/women/articles/preg18.htm

Small gestational age:
http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v60/n9/full/1602419a.html

Malformations:
“Studies in a total of 57 000 pregnancies showed no effect of minimal alcohol consumption on the risk of malformations.”
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22413723

*As an end note, I’d like to add that one or two doctors have claimed to media that they’ve seen children with FAS after one drink by the mother. It is my opinion that the substantial body of research done on this topic would imply that their anecdote is faulty in some way, be it reporting or representation.

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