THE BLOG

A Pregnant Woman Walks Into a Bar...

11/05/2016 11:36 | Updated 11 May 2016

She orders a beer. There is no punchline. She gets her drink and returns to her friends to enjoy it.

That is, if she's in New York, where restaurants and bars are now explicitly prohibited from refusing to serve alcoholic drinks to mothers-to-be. Elsewhere, however, it is likely she'll be shot disapproving looks and bar staff may even refuse to serve her.

A visibly pregnant woman ordering an alcoholic drink has become so frowned upon in our society that for many it has become something of a sick joke.

But why?

While there is "robust and consistent" evidence that heavy or binge drinking is associated with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, the British Medical Association also states that "existing evidence on the adverse irreversible effects of PAE [prenatal alcohol exposure] at low-to-moderate levels is inconclusive."

The BMA continues: "A 2006 review of the evidence on the effects of alcohol on the developing embryo, fetus and child - conducted by the NPEU (National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit) - found there to be no consistent evidence of adverse health effects from low-to-moderate PAE.

"It is worth noting that the current evidence is not robust enough to exclude any risk from low-to-moderate levels, and evidence is continuing to emerge as to the possible effects of PAE at these levels."

A better safe than sorry approach is often wise when evidence is lacking, as the NHS states: "Experts are still unsure exactly how much, if any, alcohol is completely safe for you to have while you're pregnant, so the safest approach is not to drink at all while you're expecting."

But with that information available, surely the decision of whether or not to have a small glass of wine or a bottle of beer at some point during pregnancy should rest firmly in the hands of each and every pregnant woman.

Instead it appears many believe it lies in the hands of bar staff, or concerned onlookers, twitching to let a pregnant woman know how much of a terrible mother she is for so much as contemplating a spritzer.

To take away a pregnant woman's right to choose whether or not to drink alcohol is infantilizing.

Women, even when pregnant and thus obviously addled by 'baby brain', have been trusted with the right to work, the right to drive and the right to vote. So why aren't we trusted to make up our own minds about having a drink?

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is a very serious issue, and that is why all mums-to-be must be given all the information regarding the known affects of alcohol in pregnancy, so that they can make an informed decision should an occasion arise when they're considering having a drink.

Judging a visibly pregnant woman for having a small glass of wine or a bottle of beer isn't protecting her children, it's just making you feel smug.

Perhaps it is society's way of preparing mums-to-be for the fact that any decision they make regarding their child will now be inviting public criticism - from how they choose to feed their baby to how they handle tantrums.

That is why I'm happy to see New York protecting a pregnant woman's right to order an alcoholic drink - not because I have any intention of getting plastered while carrying a child, but because I want a woman's right to make a responsible decision for herself respected.

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