In the December issue of Today’s Parent I argued in favour of drinking alcohol while pregnant. As a full-time beer writer, tasting alcohol on a nearly daily-basis is part of my job. But choosing to drink, even a moderate amount of alcohol while pregnant, wasn’t an easy decision, especially in light of North American medicine’s official tagline of “no safe time, no safe amount.”
Why I decided that I could safely drink, and grow a beautiful, healthy fetus is summed up in my column for Today’s Parent, which I’m sharing below. And while I summed up my argument rather neat and tidily here, I did have doubts along the way and I thought a lot about our puritanical approach to pregnancy and motherhood these days. I was especially frustrated by the lack of women writing openly and unapologetically about choosing to drink while pregnant and so I’d like to share some of my own experiences in some upcoming blog posts.
But for now, here’s the column:
“Yes, I drank a little while pregnant.”
Crystal Luxmore, mom of one
I love beer. And as a beer reviewer, it’s my job to write about it. So when I got pregnant, planned to cut down, but not to stop drinking completely. In fact, while I was pregnant I passed the certified cicerone exam (it’s like being a sommelier for beer), becoming the fourth woman in Canada to reach this level.
That was a year ago last fall, around the same time a study found children of women who consumed a couple drinks a week while pregnant had IQs one or two points lower than kids whose mothers abstained. I told my husband this with trepidation, figuring he’d want me to hang up my stein for the entire nine months. “One IQ point?” he said. “I can live with that.” And something clicked with me, too: I was going to quit the occasional pint, and my job, over the chance that my child might be short one measly IQ point?
I asked my doctor for advice on how much I could drink per week. One unit? Two? But he refused to quantify it. “I can’t give you a guideline beyond, ‘No safe time, no safe amount,’” he said. “And no other doctor will be able to, either.” This blanket approach keeps women from having a comprehensive discussion about alcohol — and all the contradictory research — with their caregivers: When I was six months along, another study found no cognitive differences in the children of non-drinking pregnant women compared to moderately drinking ones. And why are the artificial ingredients in many pregnancy binges (I craved cheese puffs and licorice, washed down with pop) more socially acceptable than a bottle of all-natural, locally brewed pale ale packed with antioxidants, vitamin B6, and folic acid?
So, I created my own guidelines: no booze at all for the rest of the first trimester (I found out I was pregnant five sudsy weeks in). From 12 weeks on, I consumed no more than one or two beers a week, and only a half-pint at a time. When I was accepted into midwifery care, and my midwife OK’d my customized drinking plan, it was a huge relief.
Pregnancy taught me that treating our bodies like temples in the quest to create a perfect child isn’t my idea of a good time. Being a happy mother who can indulge responsibly, and raise a healthy baby, is more my cup of lager.