What to suspect when you’re expecting
The New York Times broke the news this week: despite all the warnings against it, pregnant women have been known to sometimes enjoy a glass of beer or wine.
Anyone who lives in the world knows this, although some people believe it’s their job to give the stink-eye to any woman with a bump who dares sip a Guinness. Of course, how are these people to know if it’s that pregnant woman’s first Guinness or her sixth? Then again, if it’s her sixth, can she even see the stink-eye?
Although most doctors can agree that the occasional drink (or maybe two!) is probably okay, no one’s ready to put that on bottles. Because no one really, truly knows. Studies such as this one show that prenatal alcohol exposure does indeed have a negative effect, but it doesn’t say how much alcohol exposure. It depends on your body weight and your metabolism, and that means it’s up to the individual to determine how much alcohol is okay. And public-health advocates don’t trust the individual, so as a result we get stern warnings and stink-eyes, and women wonder if they should trust warnings at all.
After all, the list of Terrible Things That Will Harm Baby grows every day. And after a while it’s hard to discern between what you truly should avoid (Paxil, apparently) and what they’re just tossing in to the do-not-use bin for the hell of it. For instance: Benzoyl Peroxide? This article warns against using Retin-A during pregnancy, providing a coherent reason, okay, affects your DNA, got it, and then adds a footnote: also avoid benzoyl peroxide. No reason. Just don’t. The end. For me and my spotty sisters, many of whom face dermatological challenges during pregnancy, this is cruel. I’m glad I didn’t know this when I was pregnant and liberally applying Clearasil to my hormone-riddled face. (So far my son seems unscathed. But I’ll keep on eye on him.)
I’m fairly certain there’s a vast conspiracy going on to deprive pregnant women of all the remaining joy in their lives. Antidepressants? Bad for baby! Alcohol? Bad! Bad skin? Good! A recent study showed that a mild amount of anxiety in the mother is good for the baby. Of course this is good news for neurotic nutjobs like myself, but it smacks of some kind of puritanical conspiracy, does it not? “Suffering is good. The baby likes it. That beer you’re sipping to unwind is lowering the baby’s IQ! Now put it down, and get to fretting!” I imagine the research lab that came out with this finding getting their directive from some secret government agency. “Here are your results. When pregnant women are unhappy, it’s good for the baby. Other things that we’re going to make pregnant women forego are, let’s see [shuffling papers], phone calls to friends, back rubs, and “What Not to Wear” marathons. Don’t break that news all at once, though. Space it out.
As a tonic to all this hand-wringing, we have our parents’ generation, who enjoy nothing more than regaling us with tales of their all-night partying while we were still in the womb. “I had to have my Virgina Slims when I was pregnant,” they croak, reaching for the Scotch. “Kept my weight down. And look how you turned out.”
On the other hand, maybe we should heed the warnings.Published December 1, 2006. Last updated October 28, 2017.