Who can develop a sound rationale against the ingestion of any alcohol during pregnancy, or develop an argument in support of permitting occasional ingestion of a small amount of alcohol during pregnancy?
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I've always believed in the old maxim, "Moderation in all things," which simply means to not imbibe in anything too much. But in the case of alcohol, any is too much!
Anything that is taken into a pregnant woman's body passes through the placenta and ends up in the bloodstream of the unborn baby. So, substances like alcohol, food preservatives, antibiotics, and certain prescription drugs that have adverse side effects for the mother are going to have the same (if not worse) side effects for the unborn baby as well. We've all seen how mothers who've used heroin while expecting give birth to heroin addicts.
Several other arguments against alcohol during pregnancy include: increased risk of premature birth, stillborn birth, miscarriage, low birth weights, hyperactivity, learning disabilities, mental health problems, juvenile delinquency, congenital defects, brain damage, and stunted growth before and after birth. As for consuming a small amount during pregnancy--It's been proven that women who drink as little as a drink a week can still have babies who will suffer from a condition called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), a variety of conditions outlined in the above paragraph.
These conditions don't necessarily happen, but they can. It seems to me that drinking alcohol during pregnancy isn't worth the risk!
The simple truth is that we don't fully understand fetal alcohol syndrome and the effects of alcohol on the fetus. I guess I tend to follow the maxim "better safe than sorry." I know many women who had a class of wine occasionally during their pregnancies and went on to have healthy, happy babies. As a mother, I don't think I would have been able to live with myself if I had harmed my child while it was growing inside of me. I chose not to drink during my pregnancy because doctors don't trully know a specific amount of alcohol that is safe. Some women can drink and have healthy babies while others cannot. With all the uncertainty, why not give the child the best possible chance and not drink at all?
In the best of all possible situations, a woman would take it one step further and abstain from all alcohol from the time she begins anticipating that she might want to become pregnant. Few women are immediately aware of the fact when the egg implants and begins developing, which means that alcohol consumed during that interim between conception and awareness of pregnancy is being taken in during the very earliest stages of development, when so many critical fetal areas are beginning to take shape.
In my opinion, small amounts of alcohol are safe. This means no more than 1 glass of wine per day, and preferably less. The ideal would be general abstinence, with one or two glasses of wine on rare occasions.
For perspective, fetal alcohol syndrome (abnormal face and developmental issues, particularly involving intelect and neurologic problems) requires significant and persistent obviously excessive and abusive drinking during much of the early pregnancy.
An occasional drink or two during pregnancy is not going to damage the fetus.
Personally, as a woman, I would never touch any alcohol if I were pregnant or thought I might be pregnant. I suppose it would only take seeing one baby born with defects from drinking during pregnancy to convince anyone. Why take the risk? Alcohol is not necessary to survive. To my students and my children, in the face of a question like this (i.e., deeply debatable), I ask them, what is the worst that can happen, and is it worth taking the risk? Can you live with the reprecussions? If there is the smallest risk, how can there be any question in the first place?
Some may feel the risk is small. If a woman drinks three to six drinks a week, her chance of cancer goes up 15%. If she has two drinks a day, her risk of cancer is 50%. If drinking creates a higher risk of some cancers in adults, is an unborn child better able to handle the effects of alcohol? I don't think it is likely. This applies to nursing mothers who drink as well. As a child cannot speak for him- or herself, are we not responsible to protect that child at all costs? As a mother, it is my responsibility not to smoke, take drugs, drink, or even drive without a seatbelt. It's not just my life for which I am responsible, but also my child's. And sometimes it's not just about living—more than that, it is about providing a child with every opportunity to have a quality life, rather than forever being behind because a mother "took a chance." One article notes, with regard to fetal alcohol poisoning:
The good news is that FAS is 100% preventable; the bad news is that it's 100% irreversible.
From my personal experience, I have friends who adopted three children whose mother drank alcohol and took drugs heavily throughout each of her pregnancies. There is a sense of moral responsibility here. Each of the three children each have, to a differing degree, problems with their development and real learning issues as regards their education. Humans are free to do what they want to their own bodies, but when their activities impinge on the wellbeing and future of others, they have no right. This is clearly the case with alcohol being consumed during pregnancy. Such women are risking the future of their unborn children and affecting their future quality of life before that child is even borne.
I, being a parent, would highly suggest staying away from any sort of drugs during pregnancy. On the other hand, I remember hearing (from a pediatric nurse) that the tannins in red wine are actually good for a fetus. The problem with drinking, though, lies in over-consumption. If one is used to drinking, they will most likely over-consume. My suggestion would be to abstain from all drugs and alcohol during pregnancy. Too many children face the consequences of the mother's actions after birth and into their life.
I think it's up to the woman. Like abortion and euthanasia, the public has no right to decide whether you can or can't do something to your own body.
In the case of alcohol be consumed during fetal development, it shouldn't be encouraged, but definitely not banned. If a woman wants to drink (regardless of the known side effects to the baby) it her her body, her choice, her right. Of course, if the mother profoundly refuses to consume alcohol during pregnancy, that again is her choice. In my opinion, if you want to do something (that either is something to do with you or within reasonable diametres) then you should be able to do it pronto.
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