Last week, Mommyish reported on the recent study that shows that low to moderate drinking during pregnancy will not harm your baby, and 55% of readers admitted to drinking the odd glass of wine or beer. I use the word “admitted” because the general attitude that people (especially women) have when discussing the subject is that alcohol and pregnancy do not mix. For years, drinking during pregnancy has been taboo. In the past, it was taboo for health and safety reasons, but over the years it’s become taboo because some people feel that there is a “right” way and a “wrong” way for women to indulge in pretty much anything during pregnancy. Sandwich meats, coffee, and soft cheeses already get a bad rap, but when a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, watch out! That is the worst of the worst in the Land of No-Nos, and for every woman who backs up her decision to drink the occasional glass of wine with a study, there are about a thousand women who are happy to tell her she’s crazy. Or, more than that, that she’s a witch for even conceiving of touching a drop of alcohol, much less drinking a whole glass of the stuff.
Women have heard it all: Why take the risk? This is your baby we’re talking about. Some women who have suffered complications or miscarriages can’t fathom why a perfectly healthy woman with a perfectly healthy baby would want to “cheat” during pregnancy just to remember what a glass of champagne tastes like. Those women feel cheated themselves, because they experienced frustrations in an area where many other women – even boozy women – haven’t. It’s a sensitive subject, not only because of the decades women have been warned not to drink a single ounce of alcohol during pregnancy, but because caring for a developing baby is a huge responsibility. While some women view consuming an occasional glass of alcohol as not that big a deal, others view that casual approach as reckless and inappropriate. And given the opportunity, they’re inclined to tell their pregnant friend, sister, neighbor, or even a stranger just what they think, whether they know much about that woman’s drinking habits and health or not.
Never is this lack of filter more apparent than on the Internet, where judging people comes quite naturally to the opinionated among us. I was thinking about this last week after I posted my friend Claire’s article about drinking while pregnant on the STFU, Parents Facebook Page. First, it struck me that everyone had very strong feelings on the subject, and second, that it must really suck being pregnant and trying to enjoy a beer that is, essentially, doctor approved, when at least a portion of society just won’t let you. Whether Claire is drinking “too much” or not is beside the point; the point is, her piece ignited a somewhat hostile debate on the Facebook page over what’s considered “acceptable” for pregnant women to do, or in this case, to drink. I recalled a submission I received recently that made me think that women shouldn’t share this type of information about themselves on social media, and how sad that is. It’s a shame that, even with studies backing up a woman’s personal decision to have a drink while pregnant, it might be best if women didn’t bring up the topic on sites like Facebook at all. Maybe it’s just not possible for people to have civilized discussions about such a controversial subject via social media platforms. When everyone from your grade school lab partner to your mother’s friends to people you don’t even know has an opinion, perhaps it’s just not worth it. Perhaps a pregnant woman talking about having a beer on Facebook is in fact riskier than enjoying the beer in the first place. Take a look at that submission to decide for yourself:
See what I mean? Insults hurled, science ignored, and everyone is left feeling more or less worse than your average hangover. Studies are wonderful aids for women to use when making personal choices about what to eat and drink during pregnancy, but it seems that even science isn’t enough to alter the social stigmas associated with consuming certain things while pregnant.