Drinking in Pregnancy - Mind the Baby

Pregnant women everywhere thank you

There I was, enjoying a nice cold glass of Sancerre with my dinner, when my eye wandered to the symbol at the bottom of the label.

Pregnant women everywhere thank you - Mind the Baby

It’s a symbol that I’ve seen hundreds of times – usually on the back of my Corona in the pub – but it really got me thinking this time.

Thank God, I thought, THANK GOD that symbol is there. 

How helpful would it be, if I was pregnant right now, and was just about to pour myself a glass of wine to go with my meal? How helpful would it be to see that symbol and be suitably forewarned that its not suitable for pregnant women? I would have continued on, unsupervised, in ignorance, lashing into the vino unaware of the dangers that lurked within.

Also, THANK GOD, that it’s a symbol and not spelled out in the letters of our mother tongue. The symbol of course ensures that there are no language barriers, no misunderstanding and no doubt in any pregnant woman’s mind anywhere in the world that the contents of this bottle are not for her.

I’m sure pregnant women everywhere thank you for bringing this to their attention.

Never mind of course that the evidence shows (here, here and here – to name but a few) that low levels of alcohol intake during pregnancy have no recorded adverse affects.

Never mind that it is the pregnant woman’s body, and her baby, and therefore her choice.

Never mind that the vast majority of women are more than aware of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption both in and out of pregnancy.

Never mind that women with an alcohol addiction problem – who are most likely to have a baby with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders – are caught up in something far more complex than simply deciding to abstain from the odd glass of beer or wine on occasion.

A symbol on a bottle is never going to work for them.

A symbol on a bottle is never going to have any positive impact on a pregnant woman, or any woman in fact.

How many women do you reckon put down their glass or bottle when they see this symbol?

Is it a shaming exercise?

Is it just another intervention in a long list of interventions that infantilise pregnant women and reinforce the belief that they are incapable of making informed decisions for themselves and their babies, and also that they don’t have their babies’ best interests at heart?

Symbols are very simple but very powerful things. We have a rocky history with symbols and the behaviours that they elicit. This one serves no positive purpose. It’s time to let it go.

11 thoughts on “Pregnant women everywhere thank you”

  1. I think it’s about controlling women, our lives and our bodies. A worrying trend.

    After all, where is the symbol of the expectant Daddy laying off the vino?

    Some of my fellow bloggers believe that drinking during pregnancy is ‘criminal’, I now don’t think it’s advisable, and I’d say far fewer women do it now, and I wonder has there been any impact? I notice that there is no equivalent campaign to make employers looks after pregnant women, make sure they are not exposed to chemicals, or made to stand all day, or threatened with redundancy or any of the other things that happened to me but never get mentioned? It’s always about putting the blame on the individual these days…

    1. I didn’t drink myself when I was pregnant but that was a personal choice. When the evidence doesn’t say otherwise, I have no issue with anyone else who enjoys the odd glass here and there.

      You’re right, where are the equivalent campaigns? As a society we’re obsessed with blaming mothers…

  2. I really cant agree. At a personal level, you and I nor our educated counterparts may be able to make more informed decisions and consider warning infantalising us. However, there are many broad spectrum in society where this isn’t the case. You recognise that alcohol abuse has devastating consequence for a developing fetus and and fetal alcohol syndrome leaves babies with lifelong learning disabilities. Seeing this label may spark guilt in someone who could otherwise tell themselves that they were not doing harm. And despite the fact that neither you nor I currently know how effective these warning are the women who really need them, nonetheless, I dont think they need to be excluded on the basis of being patronising . Lets take a mature perspective and not jump to be offended/shamed at every single opportunity and see this within a broader societal context. Take the advice or leave it.

    1. We’ll have to agree to disagree Sarah Jane. I don’t believe in guilting or patronising anyone. I believe in education and community-based supports. I also don’t believe in us (the informed) and “them”. We are all adults. There are other ways and this is not it.

  3. Is the symbol not education you propose to believe in??! Its a public information notice. And whether you believe in “them and us”, them and us tend to exist irrespective of your belief system. Economically, educationally, in terms of life opportunities and healthcare. Anyway, as you say agree to disagree. But try to keep a slightly more open mind………(“this is not it” is not exactly encouraging debate”).

    1. I agree that the “them and us” you’re referring to exists alright. But the “us” is just privileged, not superior. Public information is “consuming alcohol during pregnancy may have serious health consequences for your baby”. A symbol that basically shuts down the conversation save for “drinking pregnant women not allowed here” is not public information and it is not evidence based.

  4. Its not superior to recognise these differences- that inference is entirely yours . I think that statements like “Never mind that it is the pregnant woman’s body, and her baby, and therefore her choice” is an interesting statement. Having a baby does not give you the right to choose to harm that baby. Or behave exactly as you wish because your freedoms are more important than their rights. The studies your refer to are very limited in their scope as there will never be a true clinical trial of the effects of alcohol at low/modest levels on babies as it would be unethical. Those “look back” studies have several limitation and are very narrow in scope. Please note also that the NIH study examines the effects of “This study observed no consistent effects of low to moderate alcohol consumption or binge drinking in EARLY PREGNANCY on offspring behaviour at the age of 5 years”. This does not examine the effect of low to moderate alcohol during pregnancy. This is a key difference.

    Furthermore another study ( a more detailed meta-analysis spanning 30 years of data published in 2012) on the page you reference concludes “Our findings support previous findings suggesting the detrimental effects of prenatal binge drinking on child cognition. Prenatal alcohol exposure at levels less than daily drinking might be detrimentally associated with child behavior. The results of this review highlight the importance of abstaining from binge drinking during pregnancy and provide evidence that there is no known safe amount of alcohol to consume while pregnant.” See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23905882

    Stop misrepresenting the data. It does not conclude what you say it does. Saying so may give solace to those who want to continue to drink in pregnancy and feel ok about it but if you cant be certain there are NO ill effect why would you take the chance. Oh hang on I forgot, because its your body……

  5. I attended a wedding heavily pregnant. I was sitting when I was introduced to an old school mates boyfriend and I politely stood up to shake his hand. His reaction when he saw my bump was Wow loudly and caused everyone to discuss my bump. So they came with the wine I asked the girl next to me would I take a glass for her and she said why not. When my WOW boy whom I’d never met in my life saw the wine being poured he exclaimed… whoa whoa… you can’t have that!!!

    I was so taken back. I then had to explain in my humiliation that I wasn’t taking it for me but for the guest next to me which meant she was as embarrassed as I was.

    I couldn’t believe the nerve of the man to comment on my actions because I was pregnant. I wasn’t brave of comfortable enough to pull him up over it on the day because I felt vulnerable.

    I’m all about choice… live and let live…..
    I enjoyed reading your post.

  6. You should stop drinking alcohol if you are trying to conceive or conceived already. If you are not able to discontinue it and prefer to choose to drink, then you should cut down the amount of alcohol you take. It’s better to avoid, but if you are drinking, you should not take more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week (1 unit = 10ml of pure alcohol)

    Dr. Rajesh, MD
    Author @ getting pregnant

What do you think?