Dear Dr. Blonz: I just found out that I am seven weeks pregnant with my second child. I didn’t know I was pregnant because I always had irregular periods. At the time I found out, I was drinking a glass of wine periodically with dinner. I eat well overall, but wonder if the wine will affect my unborn child.
Several people have told me that they drank a glass of wine every day during their pregnancy and nothing happened to their baby. And a friend of mine recently told me that her doctor said an occasional glass of wine during pregnancy was unlikely to do any harm. How would anyone know if this is safe, since “from time to time” can differ from person to person? Please clear up this mess for me. —RB, San Francisco
Dear RB: Congratulations on your pregnancy. It is difficult to answer with certainty the question of whether your wine consumption can affect your child. there are a lot of variables, and we just don’t know.
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Research and statistical tables have found an association between the level of alcohol consumption and later onset of problems for the developing child. Cohort studies – those that follow a group of people for a period of time – have linked excessive alcohol consumption to higher risks of fetal abnormalities and death. Note this mention of “excessive alcohol consumption”.
You’re not the first person to find out she was pregnant while living a healthy lifestyle that included light to moderate wine consumption. This is not an uncommon circumstance; please don’t let him overwhelm you with suspicions of guilt. It is important to have drunk alcohol with food, because alcohol is absorbed directly through the stomach lining, which is why drinking on an empty stomach quickly makes itself felt.
We’re dealing with statistics and risk factors, and the reality is, there’s unlikely to ever be a definitive amount of proven “safe” alcohol during pregnancy. Recommendations should be on the abstinence side, because no one wants to encourage behavior that could lead to problems.
Be sure to discuss all of this with your OB/GYN. See the information pages on alcohol use in pregnancy from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at b.link/ufg4tj and the National Library of Medicine at b.link/yfmpqh.
There is no doubt that too much alcohol is bad and alcohol is not essential to your child’s health. Of all the moments in life, pregnancy is not the time to take even small risks. My best for you and your family.
Ed Blonz, Ph.D., is a nutritional scientist and assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco. He is the author of “The Wellness Supermarket Buying Guide” e-book (2012), which is also available as a free digital resource at blonz.com/guide.
Send your questions to: “On Nutrition”, Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send your requests by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.