Can You Drink Wine While Pregnant?
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Food restrictions during pregnancy require women to give up some unsafe foods and beverages. While unwinding with a glass of wine may have been your usual way of drawing an end to the day, the same practice is not recommended for pregnant women. However, some women may claim that they have had a normal pregnancy and a healthy baby even after enjoying an occasional glass of wine during pregnancy. This puts many pregnant women in a dilemma and raises the question of whether pregnant women can drink wine without facing any complications. Read more to weigh the various pros and cons of drinking wine during pregnancy.
Is Drinking Wine During Pregnancy Safe?
“Can you drink wine while pregnant?”- is a common question. Well, the answer to it is a bit complicated;
pregnancy complications caused due to alcohol consumption are usually associated with excessive consumption of alcohol. These complications may not affect a woman as strongly with occasional drinking. However, with insufficient information to back the consumption of wine during pregnancy, no amount of wine is considered safe during pregnancy. Hence, pregnant women are advised to avoid wine and any type of alcohol altogether.
Risks of Having Wine When Expecting
Drinking white or red wine during pregnancy can put your baby at risk for mental and physical disabilities. This is why most healthcare professionals ask pregnant women to avoid all kinds of alcohol during pregnancy.
Some of the risks of drinking wine during pregnancy include:
- Your developing baby in the uterus will have a liver not equipped to process the alcohol that reaches it through the placenta and the umbilical cord. This can hamper foetal development and cause physical and mental abnormalities in the baby.
- Excess concentration of blood alcohol in the baby can hamper the process of oxygen delivery to the foetus’s organs and tissues.
- Excess consumption of alcohol in pregnant women also puts the baby at risk of developing foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). This causes the baby to have smaller skulls and lower birth weight. Babies born with FAS may also have facial abnormalities, developmental delays before and after birth, defects in the brain and spine, and some cases, even display signs of mental retardation. These babies are more likely to have learning disabilities later in their lives. Lack of coordination, poor memory, low IQ, vision and hearing problems, speech delays, and heart and kidney problems are other complications that FAS may cause.
- Consuming wine during pregnancy may elevate the risk of placental abruption, a severe condition where the placenta detaches from the uterine wall before delivery. This can lead to heavy bleeding and deprive the baby of oxygen and nutrients. Placental abruption can result in preterm birth, low birth weight, and other complications that can affect both the mother and the baby. It is important to note that alcohol consumption can potentially increase the likelihood of this rare but severe pregnancy complication.
- Consuming wine during pregnancy may elevate the risk of miscarriage, which is the loss of the pregnancy before 20 weeks. Alcohol can interfere with the development of the foetus and disrupt the delicate balance necessary for a healthy pregnancy. It’s advisable to avoid alcohol altogether to minimise the chances of miscarriage.
- Drinking wine during pregnancy has increased the likelihood of preterm birth. Preterm babies are born before completing the full 37 to 40 weeks of gestation, and they may face numerous health challenges, including respiratory and developmental issues. The consumption of alcohol can trigger contractions and premature labour, leading to an increased risk of preterm birth.
- Another risk associated with prenatal exposure to alcohol, including wine, is the potential for impaired cognitive development in children. Alcohol can cross the placenta and negatively affect the foetus’s developing brain, leading to long-term cognitive and behavioural problems. It’s crucial to prioritise the baby’s well-being by avoiding alcohol throughout pregnancy.
Benefits of Wine During Pregnancy
Although drinking any amount of wine during pregnancy is advised against, there may be a few benefits. Here are some reasons why pregnancy and wine may go well together:
1. Drinking red wine during pregnancy can:
- Prevent heart diseases – The antioxidants in red wine can raise good cholesterol or HDL (high-density lipoprotein).
2. Drinking white wine during pregnancy can:
- Prevent anaemia.
- Improve lung function.
- Help maintain the muscles of the heart.
Despite the benefits, it is always recommended that pregnant women stay cautious. In a research conducted in 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that 10.2 per cent of women admitted to drinking alcohol during their pregnancy
Wine Alternatives During Pregnancy That Are Safe
During pregnancy, it is widely recommended to avoid wine for pregnant women and any other alcohol consumption to ensure the health and well-being of the mother and the developing baby. Having wine when pregnant is also not recommended. However, if you still want to enjoy a refreshing beverage, there are safe alternatives that taste like wine. Here are three wine alternatives that are considered safe during pregnancy:
1. Sparkling Water With Fruit Infusion
Sparkling water infused with fresh fruits is a delightful and hydrating alternative to wine. Simply add slices of your favourite fruits like berries, citrus, or cucumber to a glass of sparkling water for a flavour and a touch of elegance. This alcohol-free option will quench your thirst and provide essential hydration, vitamins, and a refreshing twist to your beverage choices.
2. Mocktails or Alcohol-Free Cocktails
Mocktails, or alcohol-free cocktails, are creatively crafted drinks that mimic the flavours and complexity of traditional cocktails but without the inclusion of alcohol. Mixers such as fruit juices, sparkling water, herbal infusions, and garnishes can be combined to create enticing and flavourful mocktails. From fruity concoctions to zesty spritzers, numerous mocktail recipes can satisfy your taste buds without the risks associated with alcohol consumption.
3. Non-Alcoholic Wine Alternatives
Non-alcoholic wines are specifically designed for individuals who wish to enjoy the taste and experience of wine without the alcohol content. These alternatives to wine are made by removing or significantly reducing the alcohol content through various processes while maintaining the distinctive flavours of wine. Non-alcoholic wines offer a wide range of options, including red, white, and sparkling varieties, allowing you to savour the ritual of wine tasting without the potential risks. However, because these also come under-packaged items, they may contain preservatives. Therefore, consulting your doctor before consuming non-alcoholic wines is a wiser move.
Myths Related to Wine and Pregnancy
Due to a lot of uncertainty surrounding drinking wine during pregnancy, many half-truths have been doing the rounds. Some of the common myths associated with wine and pregnancy are,
1. Myth: A few celebratory sips on a special occasion or while on vacation is harmless.
Fact: Since the body doesn’t discriminate between average days and special occasions, no amount of alcohol on any day throughout pregnancy should be entertained.
2. Myth: One glass of wine does not expose the foetus to alcohol in the womb.
Fact: Any alcohol consumed during pregnancy reaches the foetus through the placenta and the umbilical cord. This may put your baby at a higher risk of FAS. Hence, avoiding even a negligible amount of wine during pregnancy is wise.
3. Myth: Drinking wine during pregnancy is better than taking cocaine or heroin.
Fact: While all substances of abuse, including cocaine, heroin, marijuana, alcohol, etc, have harmful effects on the baby, it is found that, in comparison, alcohol causes the worst neurobehavioral effects on the foetus. Hence, all these substances, including alcohol, should be avoided during pregnancy.
4. Myth: Real damage due to drinking can only be caused by excess consumption.
Fact: Alcoholic women are more likely to give birth to babies with foetal alcohol syndrome. However, this does not mean mothers who drink moderately have nothing to worry about. There is no definitive understanding of how alcohol affects women and their developing babies. The reaction of every foetus and the mother to alcohol differs and may even depend on their genetic makeup. Hence, even if you are not an alcoholic, you may stand the risk of giving birth to a baby with FAS.
5. Myth: Alcohol exposure causes only physical deformities in a baby. A normal-looking baby has not been affected by alcohol.
Fact: Physical deformities are found in babies who have been exposed in the womb within a specific period of time. In most other babies, the effects of alcohol exposure present themselves as cognitive and behavioural problems. It is also possible that the symptoms of alcohol exposure in children are very subtle and familiar with other disabilities. Diagnosis of FAS is also challenging as its features are known to change as children grow older. Consequently, only one in ten children with FAS is ever diagnosed.
6. Myth: A doctor or healthcare professional has no say in the lifestyle choices of any woman during pregnancy.
Fact: As they are aware of the risks drinking wine during pregnancy causes, doctors and healthcare professionals have the moral and ethical responsibility of advising their patients against it. These suggestions are made to protect the health and well-being of the baby.
Wine and Pregnancy Studies
Collaborative Initiative on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, a research consortium, has published several studies analysing moderate prenatal exposure to alcohol. A recent British study has also shown that small amounts of wine during pregnancy do not cause any measurable risk. However, this study has not tested the children comprehensively or considered any maternal factors.
A study published by the University of Queensland in 2013 stated that pregnant women who drink even two glasses of wine during each drinking session could adversely impact their child’s performance at school.
The Alcoholism; Clinical and Experimental Research in 2012 indicated that the effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol are dose-related and found no evidence of a safe threshold. Mothers who consume alcohol during specific periods of their pregnancy stand the risk of giving birth to babies with low birth weight and reduced length, a smooth philtrum ( the vertical space between the nose and the upper lip), thin vermillion border (demarcation of the lip and the adjacent skin) and microcephaly.
A study by the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2012 concluded that consumption of even small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy could increase the risk of spontaneous abortions.
An Alcohol, Research and Health study in 2011 found that drinking moderate alcohol during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, preterm delivery, stillbirth, and even the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
Other studies, like the Alcohol, Health and Research World in 1997, also found that even a tiny amount of alcohol during pregnancy can cause development problems in the child. Hence, it is advised that wine or any form of alcohol during pregnancy is completely avoided.
With contradictory information available about the risks of consuming wine for pregnant ladies, it is globally agreed upon by most healthcare professionals that it is best to abstain from drinking wine throughout the pregnancy. This will prevent your baby from coming in harm’s way in the womb and later in life.
Alternatively, some studies have also stated that there is almost no measurable risk in consuming wine or alcohol moderately during pregnancy.
1. Alcohol Use During Pregnancy; CDC; https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/alcohol-use.html
2. Drinking alcohol while pregnant; NHS; https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/drinking-alcohol-while-pregnant/
3. Williams. F. C, Steen. M, Esterman. A, Fielder. A; “My midwife said that having a glass of red wine was actually better for the baby”: a focus group study of women and their partner’s knowledge and experiences relating to alcohol consumption in pregnancy; BMC; https://bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12884-015-0506-3; April 2015
4. Wine During Pregnancy; American Pregnancy Association; https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/is-it-safe/wine-during-pregnancy/
5. One in 10 pregnant women in the United States reports drinking alcohol; CDC; https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2015/p0924-pregnant-alcohol.html
6. Kelly. Y, Lacovou. M, Quigley. MA, et al.; Light drinking versus abstinence in pregnancy – behavioural and cognitive outcomes in 7-year-old children: a longitudinal cohort study; Obstetrics & Gynaecology – Wiley Online Library; https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1471-0528.12246; April 2017