Raising a Glass While Pregnant

Quinn says her drinking was ob-gyn-sanctioned in what she calls a “wink-wink” sort of way. “There are so many things you can’t do when you’re pregnant,” she says. “You stress yourself out about everything. Did I get enough water? Did I eat enough vegetables? The wine was just a nice way to put your feet up and not have to worry about that.”

Leah Callahan, who is 27 and lives in Worcester, gave birth to her first child, a boy, in October. She started having an occasional glass of wine (never more than four ounces, she says) at about six months. Though she didn’t discuss drinking with her doctor, she aimed to be healthy throughout. She ate right, exercised, and gained fewer than 20 pounds. Her blood work was normal. “I don’t feel like having a glass of wine made me a bad person, or a bad soon-to-be mom,” she says. “It helps me relax, and we all know pregnancy can be stressful.”

Something else to consider buying as a gift to bring to the next baby shower you’re attending: A nice bottle of wine. Boston Magazine’s feature this month looks at a bunch of upper middle class and educated women who have decided that drinking small amounts of alcohol while pregnant is a safe thing to do. Which: !!!

Last year, a few friends and I bought some tickets to go to a wine tasting at City Hall Restaurant in lower Manhattan, and we noticed that there was a very pregnant woman who was following behind us, and trying out each of the wines at the 33 stations in the restaurant. We were shocked, but quietly kept it to ourselves, of course, because it was none of our business. We decided we would just go home later to look up the amount of wine you can safely drink while pregnant, but by the time we left the tasting, we were a little tipsy, and promptly forgot. I’m just going to go with Laura Riley, the director of labor and delivery at Mass General, who has this to say in the story: “While I recognize that there are random studies suggesting that small amounts of alcohol in some women are probably safe, I feel that nine months is a relatively short period of time” to give up drinking, she says. “It’s clear that alcohol in some levels can cause babies to have fetal alcohol syndrome, which is characterized by gross restriction and facial abnormalities and mental retardation.” Better safe than sorry, I suppose.

ETA: This post required a much better consideration than I gave it, and apologize for it missing the mark. Here’s a much better consideration of this topic by Claire Zulkey from earlier this year.

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40 Comments / Post A Comment

EM (#1,012)

By the time you are “very pregnant” that baby is mostly done cooking. Drinking earlier in pregnancy carries the most risk, but plenty of studies show that low to moderate alcohol consumption at any point in pregnancy poses extremely low risks- especially in the last trimester when it’s the most shocking to witness. I think it’s important to remember pregnant women are still people who do things in their daily lives that pose inevitable risk (driving, walking, eating, breathing city air) and not just baby incubators who should be kept in hazmat suits.

megsy (#1,565)

The pregnant woman could have spit out all the wines (much like a serious wine taster would do).
Also, I’m not pregnant, never have been pregnant and have no plans to be pregnant anytime soon but I have friends who are/have been and they very occasionally would have a small glass of wine and their doctors all knew about it and said it was fine. A close friend of mine said that it’s a taboo subject to really discuss but her doctor believed the studies/concerns were related to those who were heavy drinkers and that an infrequent, small glass of wine wouldn’t be a real concern. He told her there was no real chance her baby would have any health issues related to the drinking she did.
I really think it’s a personal decision between the woman and her doctor.

OhMarie (#299)

I would have assumed it was some kind of elaborate Tyra Banks-level social experiment if I had seen an extremely pregnant lady at a big wine tasting.

km1312 (#213)

You recognized that the pregnant lady’s behavior at the wine tasting was none of your business, but I don’t love the judge-y vibe of this whole piece.

@km1312 Yeah ditto ALTHOUGH I also give you credit for at least planning on looking up more info when you get home, rather than having a knee-jerk judgement and insisting that wine + pregnancy = never ever.

Mike Dang (#2)

@km1312 I apologize if the vibe came off so negatively! I defer to the doctor in this piece, who is much more knowledgeable than me, and absolutely agree that this is a personal decision between individuals and their doctors.

lizard (#2,615)

@Mike Dang well if you left tipsy then she most likely did! a glass is different than a large sampling of many wines. most ppl would judge a tipsy preg lady

readyornot (#816)

Oh boy, here we go. It is not just “random studies,” it is in fact nearly every published study which finds that drinking 1-2 glasses of wine per week has no more effect on infant cognitive function than drinking none.

I have a really hard time with the inability to consider moderation at all. Our culture’s insistence on all-or-nothing is more unhealthy than a celebratory glass of wine. It lends itself to fear-mongering and guilt campaigns, especially against pregnant women, whom total strangers consider to be their personal project.

That poor woman at the wine tasting. The group in front of her did not have the rudeness to shame her to her face, but that doesn’t stop you from judging her publicly, professionally! Sheesh. And you know what, maybe she swilled and spit, like wine lovers do at wine tastings, since they’re not there to get drunk.

I don’t know whether I’ll have the occasional glass of wine if/when I get pregnant, but I do know that I’ll have a million tiny voices which don’t belong in my head saying things about whatever my choice is, and that’s not exactly fair.

EM (#1,012)

@readyornot Not to mention after you give birth and then a million people have opinions about your parenting, breast feeding habits, sleeping habits, diet, and work-life balance.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@readyornot Yeah, this all-or-nothing attitude toward drinking is very much an addict’s way of looking at it. I have addicts in my family who act like the ceiling just fell in every time I admit to having a beer. A. Beer. One. They just can’t conceive of “one beer,” because for them it’s either zero beers or 120,000 beers/end up dead or in prison. Some people CAN drink in moderation!

Alcoholics will hear “low to moderate” a little differently, so popular advice defaults to telling all women “none.” It’s extremely paternalistic.

VRA (#2,792)

Why is this on the Billfold? I actually double checked the byline because I was so shocked Mike Dang would have such a judgmental and negative tone. Wine drinking while pregnant, especially while far along, is really common in Europe and the obsession with pure abstinence here is so bizarre to me since I’ve been here.
In fact, my doctor told me to have a few drinks to induce labor.

While I would really like to have children, I am not sure I have thick enough skin to become the world’s curio for 9 months. I am probably going to be the nastiest pregnant woman ever, but you know what? I don’t owe anybody anything, much less information about my health and my incubating status.

I’m also wondering why this is financial-planning/discussion related? The more I think about this the more annoyed I get that you are basically just taking an opportunity to publicly shame someone for decisions you either don’t understand or personally wouldn’t make – which as long as I’ve been reading is antithetical to the Billfold.

@polka dots vs stripes also, “I feel that nine months is a relatively short period of time” – it’s not just nine months, you’re not supposed to drink while bfeeding either, which could be YEARS, to which I say, no thank you.

Mike Dang (#2)

@polka dots vs stripes It is certainly antithetical, and I didn’t mean for it to take on this tone, and I apologize to you and everyone here.

e (#734)

@polka dots vs stripes, “I feel that nine months is a relatively short period of time” to stop:

being in cars
eating any sugar
watching scary movies
smiling
eating wheat
wearing shoes
going to work
having opinions
working out
not working out
getting in a hot tub
eating cheese, cold cuts, peanut butter, burgers, steaks, fish, eggs, salads, milk, coffee, tea
petting cats,
eating food cart food
letting dogs lick your face
taking your meds for whatever
getting lifesaving chemo

… sorry Mike, I think you are a nice person, but EVERYONE says this about something to do with pregnancy. “It’s only nine months, why risk it?” And while I know it’s not your personal quote, it’s usually men who say this, and oh my GOD is it ever infuriating.

As a person who has actually BEEN pregnant, let me tell you, it can be TERRIFYING. Your body is completely out of control- it’s making you puke and cry and have gas pains so bad you think you might need to go to the hospital. You go home after work and fall asleep on the couch right away. You can smell EVERYTHING. Your hips HURT like a fucker. Something is happening inside of you and it’s not all fun and games. This thing that’s happening to you, could potentially kill you. The little person inside of you which is rapidly assembling itself might die too, or be sick or have something happen during birth. Something like 20% of pregnancies fail in the first trimester. And if you are a pregnant person you better believe people will enjoy telling you what might go wrong, and blaming you if something does. And in the meantime, while you are coping with physical bullshit and hormonal bullshit, and people are touching you without permission and feeling free to comment and telling you all about their hemmroids and terrible labor stories and c-sections and all that, if you DARE to put ANY kind of food in your mouth, someone is drawing in a quick hiss of breath and looking at you like you just aimed an actual gun at an actual baby. “THAT SPINACH ISN’T TRIPLE WASHED! THAT CARROT HAS PESTICIDES! WINE?! MY GOD, don’t you have any concern for the wellbeing of your fetus?! Why can’t you RESTRAIN YOURSELF YOU MONSTER?”

That’s what pregnancy is like.

la_di_da (#1,425)

It’s the same with sushi in Japan, I’ve read. Pregnant women here are banned, but it’s not much of a thing there. Every culture has different hang-ups and superstitions about pregnant women.

Also, why is this on the billfold? As much as I love me some women’s issues, it’s not quite a financial thing.

Quinn A@twitter (#1,008)

Mike, I generally think you’re fantastic, but:

I’m just going to go with what Laura Riley, the director of labor and delivery at Mass General, who has this to say in the story: “While I recognize that there are random studies suggesting that small amounts of alcohol in some women are probably safe, I feel that nine months is a relatively short period of time” to give up drinking, she says

Well, it’s easy enough for you to say that 9 months is a relatively short period of time to quit drinking when you’re never going to have to spend nine months growing a tiny human in your body, and when you’re not being expected to make every single decision based on what’s best for that tiny human rather than on what’s best for you. I’m a non-drinker, but if I had to go through all the crap pregnant people go through, there’d probably be at least one day where I would really, really want a drink.

Micah (#2,793)

Why in God’s name is this on the Billfold? I can find zero mention of money in this article. I am pregnant and there are so many financial related things that the Billfold could run about pregnancy, why this snippy article about supposedly irresponsible pregnant women? I love Mike Dang but this is weird!

olivia (#1,618)

I’m also unsure why this is on The Billfold, and I also really dislike the judgmental tone. Honestly I’m disgusted by this, and it makes me not want to check this site any more. A pregnant woman is not just a baby carrier-she is a capable human being, able to make her own decisions about what to eat/drink/wear. And I don’t really think someone in charge of a financial website with presumably no medical background is the best person to be commenting about drinking and pregnancy. Even the slightest bit of research would have shown that drinking in moderation has been shown to cause no issues in several studies.

Every one of my friends who has been pregnant says it’s as if the world suddenly decides you’re incapable of making your own decisions, and constantly comments on what you’re doing/eating/drinking. I hope to God this happens to me if/when I get pregnant so I can tell every person who even looks at me funny to mind their own fucking business.

Micah (#2,793)

@olivia LOL love this. I am practicing my own enraged speech in the mirror for when someone confronts me.

Mike Dang (#2)

@olivia Forgive me, I recognize that I did a poor job with a post that required a lot more thought. I’m much better than this, though this has shown otherwise.

olivia (#1,618)

@Mike Dang Thank you for the apology-I really do appreciate that you took everyone’s comments to heart. Consider yourself forgiven! :P

Mike Dang (#2)

I am a person who can admit when I am wrong, and I made a wrong decision to base a post about a single story (that I found interesting and thought was worth posting), and should have researched a bit more. So I’m sorry to everyone offended, though I will say that I’m glad to have been corrected by everyone in this thread, and thankful for that.

rebs (#2,390)

@Mike Dang In that case, Mike, I would suggest an ETA visible on the post, so that everyone doesn’t have to wade through comments to see that you’ve been schooled. I would also direct you to reread Claire Zulkey’s piece on your sister site about drinking while pregnant/a person.
http://www.theawl.com/2012/06/drinking-when-youre-pregnant

For future reference, probably do not post about what pregnant women should or should not do, until you yourself have been a pregnant woman.

Mike Dang (#2)

@rebs Yes, thank you.

@Mike Dang Thanks for your sincere apology, both to above posters (including myself) and here, it was really appreciated.

e (#734)

@Mike Dang Thank you! Still friends! Just…you have no idea what the ninth circle of hell is until you are a pregnant person. Maybe you get a hint of it when planning a wedding. I think the reason society wants people to be married before having kids is so they can get used to the opinion factory.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@Mike Dang You’re good peeps, Mike Dang.

wearitcounts (#772)

@Mike Dang this is why you’re so good at what you do, and why we love you. thank you.

Blondsak (#2,299)

@Mike Dang Just chiming in with the chorus. You’re the best, Mike Dang.

ciphressinchief (#1,880)

It’s funny how easily the judgement comes, from both sides. I, like most commenters here, had a knee-jerk WTF reaction – which is pretty damn judgey in and of itself. Let’s all step back and give everyone the benefit of the doubt: a) Mike Dang doesn’t really believe pregnant women should be selfless baby incubators (really?!?), and b)pregnant women’s decisions are nobody’s damn business. Mike: when you are pregnant, everyone judges you for absolutely everything (my pregnant coworker was WALKING her husband’s bike the other day, and got super harassed by people “concerned for the baby”), so people’s hackles really get raised when non-pregnant people give pregnant people advice.

We good?

Thank YOU Mike Dang for your apology, earnestness and willingness to listen. If everyone could be this receptive to social issues when it’s pointed out to them we’d be living in a much, much better world.

julebsorry (#1,572)

@Laura Yan@twitter Mike’s a class act. A few months ago, I dashed off a bitchy comment in response to an article here (what can I say, I was born and raised in the steamy bowels of the Gawker commentariat- it’s the only way I knew) and was surprised to see an honest, earnest response from him in reply. Changed my whole worldview on article-commenting.

ThatJenn (#916)

@Laura Yan@twitter Yes, this. I agreed with the above commenters that this was a weird thing to put here and had a strange feel about it (I mean, it’s not my website, I don’t get to be the tone police on it, but it’s sort of inconsistent with the awesomeness and non-judgmental attitude I’ve come to know and love around here), but I am impressed with the decision to post an edit/apology rather than just being knee-jerk defensive about it or disappearing with no comment (both of which are REALLY HARD to avoid even if you think you might have been in the wrong when you are getting a lot of negative feedback on the internet).

Whit@twitter (#2,413)

BUT IS IT SAFE FOR PREGNANT WOMEN TO EAT MIKE DANG’S ASPARAGUS LASAGNA?????

Tatiana (#194)

I didn’t think there was anything wrong with this article until I read the comments! Hot damn! And that aside, if I ever become pregnant I’m more worried about giving up caffeine than alcohol.

AlliNYC (#1,725)

@Tatiana Well luckily you don’t have to do that either.

Krisya (#2,796)

@MikeDang — Props to you for recognizing the problems in your article and fully, completely, 100% owning it. It takes an intelligent and open-minded person to respond the way you have. I read the article and was planning on adding to the outrage in the comments, until I saw your responses. I only read the Billfold occasionally, so I didn’t come into the article knowing anything about you as a writer, but now I’ll definitely keep following your work.

I agree that this falls under an often American “all or nothing” umbrella. I have not been ‘pregnated as of yet but I think too many scenarios that can happen, but are rare or specific to certain actions, are made out to be A SURE THING if you don’t toe the line. My mother went white water rafting shortly after finding out she was pregnant with me. My best friend was shocked by this, and said my mom was irresponsible for putting her unborn fetus at risk. Her mother had miscarried just by stepping over a low wall. OY. Everyone has a story, but not all women are the same, not all pregnancies are the same. Lots of terrible things can happen to baby and momma during that time, but the assumption that having wine or being active is the same as smoking meth and cage fighting is ridiculous. I am not a doctor, but I imagine the babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome are not from the mums who have a glass or 2 a week.

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