A Glass Of Wine A Week While Pregnant Does No Harm. I'll Drink To That!


Shock, horror a glass of wine in pregnancy is just fine - according to the latest research.

'It's fine to have a glass of champers now and then when you're pregnant. Go on, you've got a reason to celebrate!'

'Don't touch a drop of booze when you're pregnant - unless you want to harm your defenceless unborn child.'

'Four months old is the ideal time to start a baby on solids. Open wide, baby!'

'Solids should not be introduced until a child reaches six months of age. Do you want your child to choke?'

Sigh. If there's one thing guaranteed to exasperate an expectant mum it has to be the constant shifting of goalposts and and conflicting advice from experts on matters pertaining to the health of a pregnant woman and her child.

Research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health this week concluded that drinking lightly during pregnancy does no harm. But that's not what the Government says - current guidelines advise that women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should not drink any alcohol at all.

The study questioned the mothers of a sample of over 11,000 children born between September 2000 and January 2002 about their drinking habits during pregnancy. According to the results, 5-year-olds whose mothers drank lightly (that's 1-2 units per week) during pregnancy showed no signs of any ill-effects.

Women who had been heavy drinkers during pregnancy were more likely to have hyperactive children than those who abstained but the children of woman who drank lightly were 30% less likely to have such problems than those of women who were tee-total throughout pregnancy. In other words the odd glass of wine seems to be better than abstaining altogether, but moderate to heavy drinking with a baby on board is still a bad idea. Of course, mums who can afford a glass or two of wine per week might well be wealthier than those who abstain, and the study took that into account.

I can't help cringing when research like this hits the news. When I was pregnant with my sons, now four and five, Government guidelines suggested that light drinking during pregnancy was fine. On that basis - and because a glass of Rioja and a bubble bath was about the most fun I could manage whilst growing a human - I indulged in the odd glass of wine each week. Bad mummy, because less than a year after my second child was born the Government revised its guidelines and doomed me to a lifetime of wondering if my children are one day going to grow a second head or demonstrate some hitherto unnoticed side-effect of my selfish wine-drinking ways. So this study helped me breath a sigh of relief. In fact, I felt positively vindicated by the results. And I'm not the only one.

Mum of two Catherine Cooper says she had the odd glass of wine throughout both her pregnancies, and took expert advice with a pinch of salt. "To be honest I thought everyone did. Doesn't everyone? I don't think I know anyone who abstained totally."

Catherine - meet Johanna Payton, 36, mum of Eliott, 6. Jo was midway through a cocktail at a Mexican restaurant when she suddenly felt a bit strange and put down her glass, thinking 'I might be pregnant!'

"I'd had a miscarriage on our first attempt to get pregnant so I was feeling ultra protective of my pregnancy," she says. "The advice concerning alcohol seemed a bit muddled but when I read that alcohol reaches the baby via the placenta I just thought it was for the absolute best if I stayed off the booze completely. I love a drink, but I rarely drink at home so it wasn't a struggle. I wasn't keen on going to pubs when I was pregnant either - the smoking ban wasn't in effect at that point so it definitely didn't feel like a good environment to be in."

"Eliott was a big, bouncy baby and I was very glad I stayed off the booze, but looking back I don't know if it would have made any difference if I'd had the odd glass of bubbly. It does strike me that some of my friends who drank a bit during their pregnancy have got these amazingly intelligent and advanced kids, whereas Eliott (a bright boy in his own right) was a late bloomer when it came to first words and reading and writing."

"However, not drinking during the pregnancy made me feel brilliant physically and I didn't really miss it at all. I felt so powerless when I had the miscarriage, and my next pregnancy was full of anxiety at first so I felt that abstaining from drink was the least I could do to give my baby every chance of making it through to a full-term delivery."

Catherine says she would pay more attention to Government advice on drinking during pregnancy if she felt there was proper evidence that drinking does real harm - as with current smoking guidelines.

Jo agrees that the conflicting advice is unhelpful to expectant mums. "One minute the odd drink is OK, then it's not. That's why I just decided to bench the booze completely. I think there's enough to worry about when you're pregnant without stressing over whether or not your baby is tipsy in utero."

I couldn't agree more. In my view the constantly conflicting advice concerning consumption of alcohol in pregnancy is damaging for mums and fuels fear and guilt at an already vulnerable point in a woman's life.

What bothers me most of all is the trend towards telling mothers what to do, and the insipid insinuation that we need guidelines handed down from on high because we can't possibly be trusted to listen to our instincts - famously deemed reliable in motherhood. I understand that guidelines have to be one-size-fits-all to accommodate woman from all walks of life but perhaps I'd take such guidance more seriously if it didn't seem to change with the wind.

What do you think?

Are you fed up with moving goalposts when it comes to advice during pregnancy and bringing up your child?