The American Pediatric Association (APA) announced on October 19 in definite terms that any amount of alcohol consumption during any stage of pregnancy can be harmful to the fetus and therefore no alcohol should be consumed while a woman is pregnant. Its previous recommendation was along the same lines except it wasn’t as forceful. It was believed that light consumption of alcohol was not harmful to the baby as long as it’s past the first trimester, but because one can’t really accurately measure and determine just how much alcohol is safe for the baby, it was recommended that women should not drink during pregnancy. But for those who are inclined to have a beer or glass of wine here and there, it shouldn’t cause too much damage as long as she’s past her first trimester. But today the APA changed its tune and added alcohol to the list of banned substances to ingest whilst pregnant.
What the hell? Are we still debating this subject of ‘how much’ booze is ‘safe’ while pregnant? Was this particular edict missing from the plethora of sanctimommy blogs, books and ‘experts’ out there? Are we REALLY still debating this in the year 2015 where almost every single food group or chemical (unless it’s naturally occurring) is considered hazardous and harmful to the baby? Which include: plastic bottles laced with BPA, plastic bottles made in China, infant formula which contain some sort of ‘metal’ residues, GMO foods, all of these sanctimonious rants that go on and on in the blogosphere, yet they missed one of the most poisonous substances of all to a fetus: alcohol. The issue whether a pregnant woman can drink at all now needs to be defined affirmatively in the negative ‘NO’: N-O spells NO for it to get through to people’s heads. And these are the same pregnant women crossing the street to avoid the smoker on the same side of the sidewalk as you.
If we accept as medical fact that a fetus eats, drinks and breathes what the mother eats, drinks and breathes; and assuming that most people agree (at least in theory) that it’s harmful to expose a fetus to alcohol while it’s developing in its mother’s uterus, wouldn’t it then follow that women who are pregnant should not drink, just like she should not smoke, do drugs, eat raw fish or take medications which may be harmful to the baby? Did we really need to be told by the APA (again) in more definite terms that any amount of alcohol may harm the fetus as there are varying degrees of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and women should not take that risk. This report is published in America, presumably its target audience are American mothers-to-be , the same women who are obsessive about not even taking an over the counter pain reliever for minor aches and pains but have no problem washing down their dinner with a glass of vino.
Specifically in regards to FASD, the diagnosis and recognition of its signs got murkier now that it’s a ‘spectrum’ disorder:
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) is an all-encompassing term for the range of effects that can occur in someone whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. Neurocognitive and behavioral problems from prenatal alcohol exposure are lifelong, but early recognition, diagnosis and therapy for any FASD condition can improve a child’s health.
Unfortunately, a lack of uniformly accepted diagnostic criteria for fetal alcohol-related disorders has critically limited efforts that could lessen the impact of FASDs, says Janet F. Williams, MD, FAAP, one of the report’s lead authors.
“Even though fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are the most commonly identifiable causes of developmental delays and intellectual disabilities, they remain significantly under-recognized,” said Dr. Williams.
I am no parenting expert nor do I promote one style parenting over the others. Each family knows what works best for them and they ought to follow their instincts. As long as the child(ren) is safe and loved, it’s not up to the sancti-mommies and self-appointed parenting experts to judge how people should parent their children.
That being said, it’s a whole other matter when a fetus is in utero. Should a woman find herself to be pregnant and she has decided to keep her baby to term and deliver her baby, then she has the responsibility for the next 10 months to put herself aside and do what is best for the baby and the list runs as follows: no drinking, no doing drugs (including marijuana and unsafe prescription meds), no smoking, no eating undercooked or raw seafood, poultry or meats, taking any medications that are not approved by your attending OB/GYN and whatever other recommendations your doctor has for you. It’s that simple ladies. It’s very black and white, very clear, no grey.
We cannot control what happens after the baby is delivered. As mothers we don’t know and cannot predict what issues our baby may encounter. As much as we like to prevent our babies from getting ill, developing food allergies or any other ailments, we can’t. We can, however, control want we do and eat while we are pregnant, which also happens to be the most important time in a child’s life where the baby develops all of his or her organs, tissues, cells which are to sustain it for the rest of its life. It’s about the only thing we have any control over in the journey that is parenting. So, the least we can do is to not engage in any activity that will harm or impede the development and health of the baby. We don’t need to be killing their brain cells before they are even born. We only get one set of neurons, we don’t get anymore than the ones we are born with, we also need to factor in all the brain cells our children will eventually kill on their own when they reach their adolescence, so let’s not give them too much of a head start.
For women who find themselves pregnant during a difficult time in her life, such as battling addiction issues, and she wishes to bring the baby to term and deliver the baby, it is incumbent upon her to to get help, not just for the prospect of becoming a mother, even if she chooses to not parent her child and have it adopted or placed in foster care, she owes it to her child and to the future caregivers of that child to produce the healthiest child she can. If you are an alcoholic, get help. If you are drug addicted (prescription or street drugs), get help. If you have a nicotine problem, get help. If you have any other kinds of problem which may negatively impact your unborn child, get help. You owe it to your child.
There are now whole hosts of congenital disorders and diseases that children get diagnosed with even when the mother did everything ‘right’ during her gestation. ADD, ADHD, Processing Disorders, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Autism Spectrum (which may include some or all of the above mentioned disorder), brain chemical imbalance, hormonal imbalance all of which have been diagnosed in children whose mothers had healthy pregnancies. It is cruel and inexplicable. Doctors and scientists have no concrete reason why children are being diagnosed with these disorders and at a younger and younger age. The cures are scant at best. The method to control many of these disorders is by taking strong doses of medications for life. Children suffer in school and in life as a result of these disorders, and these cannot be prevented. So for the illnesses that can be prevented by modifying our habits and behavior, however hard it might be (I don’t take addiction lightly, I know it’s a serious disease that is very painful for the addicted), we owe it to our unborn child. So, get help.