Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wine & health – pregnant women

Despite intensive and extensive studies over several decades, there is no evidence that a pregnant woman in good health, who does not smoke, and who has a balanced diet, including (say) a glass of wine each day, is in danger of harming the health of her unborn child because of that daily consumption of wine.  There is evidence to suggest enhanced cardio vascular health protection, and there is evidence that the social and stress-relieving impact of strictly controlled consumption is good for the mother’s health, and by extension, the baby’s.

Simply because it is impossible to prove a negative from a scientific epidemiological standpoint, it can’t be proved that there is no risk whatsoever.  And even the warning to a mother that she may cause harm to her unborn baby has an enormous emotional impact, and most GPs tend to dodge the issue when they are asked for an opinion by the pregnant woman by saying it has to be a personal decision.

All of this was reported by Natasha Bita, consumer editor for The Australian newspaper, and lo and behold, the Daily Wine News, published by Winetitles, covers the article and finishes with this sentence, ‘According to The Australian, wine, spirit and beer bottles will have to be labelled with tobacco-style health warnings to tell pregnant women that drinking will damage their unborn baby.’  It’s the sort of headline-grabbing sloppy reporting on this important issue that really makes me cross.  Like countless couples, my wife and I fought for our equal share of the bottle of wine chosen on the night before she went off to hospital to respectively give birth to my beautiful and highly intelligent daughter, and my supremely healthy son with a Masters degree in human movements.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I’m having a hard time comprehending why anyone would post such commentary dismissing the potential hazards of drinking while pregnant.
Where does one start picking apart the obvious misconceptions, unsubstantiated claims, and intellectual assumptions strewn through these paragraphs?
OK – Let’s start with the premise of the post (It’s OK to drink while pregnant) and how the basis for such premise was derived: My wife drank while pregnant and my children appear to be OK, ergo drinking while pregnant should be OK for every woman.
Since I don’t see the title of “Doctor” of any field of study next to your name, I question how you were able to medically determine that your children were not in the least affected by the alcohol consumption done by your wife during gestation. I also question how, you are able to psychologically determine that your children have not been affected by the same. E.g., If your son has a Masters Degree, is he not capable of obtaining his Doctorates????
Moving on. Claims such as: there is no evidence that alcohol harms an unborn child makes me wonder if you live under a rock? Obviously you use the internet, so if you simply change your search criteria from “all about wine” to “alcohol fetal syndrome” and related studies, you will go back with decades of research in the field from various foundations, organizations, medical journals, and yes… even people with PhD’s who will offer up countless (and substantiated) contradictions to your claims.
You also attempt to support your premise by stating “like countless couples…” who drank while pregnant, which, by some means is supposed to further confirm your opinion on this matter. Can you at least provide some evidence that over the years you’ve studied these “countless couples” that no harmful effects were encountered by any their fetuses?
Last but not least, let’s take your argument from a different perspective: You and your wife drink alcohol as adults, so why shouldn’t a fetus enjoy the same? Well… under that logic, why not bottle feed the newborn wine instead of breast milk? Or, for that matter, adults enjoy greasy bacon and fried chicken, why not puree’ those up and feed those to your newborn? The answer is simple, “you don’t do it” because it’s a baby, NOT an adult, whether it’s in a womb or just freshly popped out of the “oven.”
Regardless of how pissed off you may be at reading my rebuttal, please take down your post, so that you don’t risk someone actually finding credence in your opinion and having a baby subject to the effects that (are) possible when drinking while pregnant.

Anonymous said...

James Halliday suggests that a glass of wine every now and then is unlikely to cause any harm for a pregnant woman. Anonymous then jumps in with the suggestion that Halliday is encouraging conditions for "alcohol fetal syndrome". Said syndrome can be defined as "a pattern of mental and physical defects that can develop in a fetus in association with high levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy." The world record for long jump may just have been broken.

DermotMW said...

I use the internet so I checked Wikipedia and found this: Prenatal alcohol exposure is the cause of fetal alcohol syndrome. A study of over 400,000 American women, all of whom had consumed alcohol during pregnancy, concluded that consumption of 15 drinks or more per week was associated with a reduction in birth weight.[34] Though consumption of less than 15 drinks per week was not proven to cause FAS-related effects, the study authors recommend limiting consumption to no more than one standard drink per day.[34] Also, threshold values are based upon group averages, and it is not appropriate to conclude that exposure below this threshold is necessarily ‘safe’ because of the significant individual variations in alcohol pharmacokinetics.[34]

An analysis of seven medical research studies involving over 130,000 pregnancies found that consuming two to 14 drinks per week did not significantly increase the risk of giving birth to a child with either malformations or fetal alcohol syndrome.[35] Pregnant women who consume approximately 18 drinks per week have a 30-33% chance of having a baby with FAS.[34]

A number of studies have shown that light drinking (1-2 drinks/week) during pregnancy does not appear to pose a risk to the fetus.[36][37][38][39] A study of pregnancies in eight European countries found that consuming no more than one drink per day did not appear to have any effect on fetal growth.

A follow-up of children at 18 months of age found that those from women who drank during pregnancy, even two drinks per day, scored higher in several areas of development,[40] though in a different study, as little as one drink per day resulted in poorer spelling and reading abilities at age 6 and a linear dose-response relationship was seen between prenatal alcohol exposure and poorer arithmetic scores at the same age.[41]

The various studies footnoted are: ^ a b c d
^ Polygenis, D., et al. Moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy and the incidence of fetal malformations: a meta-analysis. Neurotoxicol Teralol., 1998, 20, 61–67.[1]
^ Kelly Y, Sacker A, Gray R, Kelly J, Wolke D, Quigley MA (February 2009). "Light drinking in pregnancy, a risk for behavioural problems and cognitive deficits at 3 years of age?". Int J Epidemiol 38 (1): 129–40. doi:10.1093/ije/dyn230. PMID 18974425.
^ * Day NL (1992). "The effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol." Alcohol Health and Research World, 16(2), 328–244.
^ Streissguth AP, et al. (1994). "Prenatal alcohol and offspring development: the first fourteen years". Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 36(2), 89–99. PMID 7851285
^ Forrest, F., and du Florey, C. Reported social alcohol consumption during pregnancy and infants' development at 18 months. British Medical Journal, 1991, 303, 22–26
^ du Florey, D., et al. A European concerted action: maternal alcohol consumption and its relation to the outcome of pregnancy and development at 18 months. International Journal of Epidemiology, 1992, 21 (Supplement #1)
^ Goldschmidt, L; Richardson, GA; Stoffer, DS; Geva, D; Day, NL (1996). "Prenatal alcohol exposure and academic achievement at age six: A nonlinear fit". Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research 20 (4): 763–70. PMID 8800397.

I would guess that this is conclusive enough evidence for most people that Jame's post is reasonable and well argued. Here is the SECOND sentence of Jame's opening paragraph: There is evidence to suggest enhanced cardio vascular health protection, and there is evidence that the social and stress-relieving impact of strictly controlled consumption is good for the mother’s health, and by extension, the baby’s.

Hmm, I guess James was perfectly correct, looked at the evidence and only then used his own anecdotal evidence. Sounds pretty good to me.

Dermot Nolan MW

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