VALENTINE’S DAY IS COMING UP… IS ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION SAFE DURING PREGNANCY?

I’m looking forward to Valentine’s Day. My husband is so romantic. The presents… The fancy dinner… The romantic candlelight… The yummy glasses of Chardonnay. WAIT A MINUTE; Can I even consume alcohol if I’m pregnant? And if I can drink, how much alcohol consumption during pregnancy is safe for my baby? I’M SO NERVOUS AND CONFUSED!

RELAX, AND TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND READ ON.

I want to assure you that you will have the Valentine’s Day you always wanted.

Alcohol is a teratogen, which means it can harm your baby. It freely crosses the placenta. In fact, your baby’s blood alcohol level reaches your blood alcohol level within 2 hours of alcohol consumption. Another important point is that there is NO dose-effect relationship between how much you alcohol you drink and amount of damage to your baby. Alcohol has been shown to have a negative effect of a baby’s development during all phases of a pregnancy no matter how far along you are in your pregnancy. Therefore, the OFFICIAL recommendation by American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) is DON’T DRINK WHEN YOU ARE PREGNANT.

My patients often ask me how alcohol consumption can harm their babies.
Alcohol can cause STILLBIRTH, which is a medical term meaning death. Alcohol can also cause FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME.

FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME involves a spectrum of abnormal features: facial abnormalities, low birth weight, intellectual deficits/low IQ, motor function delays (poor athleticism), hyperactivity, lack of focus, poor social skills. In other words, babies and later on kids look abnormal, are not as smart, are less athletic and behave erratically compared to those whose mothers did not drink during their pregnancies.

However, the fact is that women do occasionally drink when they are pregnant. Statistics show that 50% of women between 18 and 44 reports drinking during their pregnancies. 12.5% of women even report BINGE DRINKING during their pregnancies. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines BINGE DRINKING for women as 4 or more drinks in 2 hours. This is enough alcohol to bring the blood alcohol concentration level to 0.8 g/dl. Clearly, we don’t have 50% of our children running around looking and thinking weirdly. How is that possible if so many women drink when they are pregnant? The answer is most women RARELY drink NOT REGULARLY drink when they are pregnant.

Many studies have come out to reveal effects of alcohol on babies. Studies have shown that drinking 1 drink per day has not increased the incidence of LOW BIRTH WEIGHT BABIES. Other studies have shown that drinking 1.5 drinks per day have not increased the incidence of PRETERM BIRTH. Also, studies have shown that drinking 8 or fewer drinks per week have not increased the incidence of NEURODEVELOPMENTAL IMPAIRMENT (decrease IQ, hyperactive, unfocused and poor social behavior).

The conclusion… THE BEST RULE IS DON’T DRINK AT ALL. However, most people (myself included) do not have the discipline to abstain from alcohol completely. We are human and need balance. We eat fast-food, drink coca cola, don’t exercise as much as we should. Some of us smoke… You get the point; no one is perfectly disciplined against all vices. The goal is being reasonability and moderation. Therefore, understanding that drinking a glass of wine on your birthday, at a party or on Valentine’s Day IS OK just DON’T drink 4 glasses. Be smart!

Some of my patients tell me that they don’t like wine; they prefer for example a skinny Margarita. What type of alcohol (wine hard liquor) is ok? The rule of thumb is 1 STANDARD drink contains 14 grams of alcohol. And, one 5 ounce glass of WINE, one 12 ounce mug of BEER and one 1.5 ounce glass of ANY SPIRIT (Vodka, Tequila, Gin) ALL CONTAIN THE SAME 14 GRAMS OF ALCOHOL.

SO, HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY AND ENJOY!