**Disclaimer: I am not a medical care provider and the following post should not be conceived as medical advice to drink or not to drink during pregnancy. As a doula I am here to present the available evidence on the matter, and as a mom I will simply state my non-medical opinion**
Mamas, if you’re anything like me you miss that evening glass of vino so dearly while you’re cooking a baby. I remember having to abstain from alcohol during countless holidays, many summer nights and even on my own birthday more than once. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I love a casual drink (ok, maybe not always just singular, heehee). That being said, as an Edmonton doula I’ve been asked by so many if drinking a glass of wine while pregnant is safe. I’ve heard everything you can think of, from “people in Europe do it and their babies are usually fine” to “how dare you harm your unborn child like that”, and aside from the issue of judging others decisions, I completely understand how vague and blurred the lines are when it comes to this hot topic. So this doula in Edmonton is going to attempt to help you all understand what’s out there for info so you can decide if kicking back with a glass of your favourite cab sav is the right choice for you!
I’ve been looking into the small amount of evidence thats actually out there about light to moderate alcohol use during pregnancy (trust me guys, theres hardly any). One thing I came across is the statement that there are no known benefits so why even bother? The reason why I’ve been inspired to write this post is because one of the ways that I’ve seen a drink (specifically, a glass of red wine) be effective is when a birth person is overdue and looking to get labour to start naturally. So diving into this, how would this particular beverage be of benefit to someone wanting labour to start? For starters, look at the one side effect you notice from drinking just one glass of red wine: relaxation and drowsiness. For anyone who has drank just one glass of red before, I’m sure you can recall how tired you get – to the point of either drinking more or going to bed! Well, for me anyway. So this is exactly why some women anecdotally swear by red wine to induce labour. The women who have seen success from this method of inducing were likely either sleep deprived, or stressed about getting medically induced, or worried about the birth, or even all three. We can pull out all of the stops – acupuncture, massage, float tanks, spa days, romantic dinners, etc. but sometimes none of these are effective in getting your head out of the gutter. And by reading my Edmonton doula blog you should know by now that you aren’t going to get going on your labour journey if you are in your head and anxiety ridden. So for some, they choose to run a warm bubble bath, light some candles, and soak while enjoying a glass for the first time in what seems like forever. And boom, things start happening! However, in our society we are advised time and time again to avoid any and all alcohol consumption “just in case” – so many birthing people will never share their best kept secret of avoiding that induction date.
Let’s take a look at the hard facts that are available about alcohol consumption during pregnancy. We know now that excessive drinking during pregnancy puts fetuses at risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). FASD is an incurable disease and effects from it can include facial and other physical changes, brain and central nervous system disabilities, as well as cognitive, emotional and behavioural problems that include difficulty with reasoning and learning from experience. This is all likely something you know and have heard before, however what about light or occasional alcohol consumption? The issues I see with obtaining any solid evidence on this particular facet is that A) trials would be considered unethical as most women would not want to risk putting their baby in danger to produce results on how much alcohol is too much and B) studying birthing people who already consume alcohol during pregnancy would be biased as many of these people struggle with addictions and abuse of other substances that would cause adverse outcomes as well. It is also hard to rely on evidence derived from a study that involves self-reporting… especially when there’s alcohol involved and our memory may not be the sharpest. For these reasons we don’t have much, but here’s what we do have for evidence: researchers in the UK systematically reviewed all the data from observational studies on the impact of light drinking vs. no drinking. They selected 26 appropriate studies to review and found that drinking up to four (UK standard) units per week while pregnant, on average, was associated with an 8 per cent higher risk of having a small baby. There was also mention of a heightened risk of premature birth by about 10 per cent. It’s important to note that this evidence is far from perfect, and this whole subject is still very much a grey area.
So… now what? What does this all mean for you, who may be faced with an impending induction date and desperate to avoid that whole dance as much as possible. Well, taking off my Edmonton doula hat for a minute I’ll put you into my frame of mind when I was expecting. As a mom who has lost multiple pregnancies, the thought of doing anything with even the slightest chance of negatively impacting this child that I worked so. damn. hard. to get in my tummy was a big fat no to me. With that being said, as a doula in Edmonton I’ve had clients be told to go and drink a glass of red wine in the bathtub by their care provider who wants them to avoid an induction – and I say good for you, you go girl! I have no judgement as to what you should and should not do in this matter, my only advice is, like with every other facet of childbearing, follow your gut. Weigh the benefits of potentially avoiding an induction with the risks of a small baby or premature labour (which, if you’ve reached this point, shouldn’t even be a problem as you’d be full term. Trying to induce yourself before you’re 40 weeks is a hard NO). Go through the BRAIN acronym (read about BRAIN here) with your partner and get their perspective on the issue as well. And make a decision that you feel good about! This is all a part of having babies.
Did you have a drink to bring on labour? Did it work for you? Share your experiences in the comments!