I was scared into not drinking during pregnancy. So you can be too

A new survey might be the final word in the matter - babies and booze don't mix

Sophie Heawood
Wednesday 14 November 2012 20:05

If you’re confused by surveys saying you must never drink in pregnancy, surveys saying you can safely knock back the odd glass of red, and surveys saying that foetal alcohol syndrome is a fun game for all the family – wait, what – anyway. The good news is that they’ve brought out another survey, and this one claims it’s definitive. This survey, conducted by medics from the University of Bristol’s “Children of the 90s” project, says that even moderate drinking lowers a child’s IQ. (They waited until the babies turned eight to be really sure about it.)

By moderate, they really do mean moderate: between one and six drinks per week. I mean that’s not as moderate as a pregnant woman who finally downs one small glass of champagne because it’s New Year’s Eve and everyone around her is enmeshed in naked Twister, but nor is it a preggo who necks two pints of beer in one sitting, whom the surveyors would have classed as – gasp! – a “binge drinker”, and promptly disqualified.

Moderate drinking, according to the genetic data collected by these scientists, lowers a child’s future IQ, regardless of other factors such as social class. The children of mothers who abstained did not experience the same variants in their intelligence ratings. Only those who drank – even once a week.

As a Brit who spent most of her pregnancy in Los Angeles, with a Beverly Hills gynaecologist who thought drink was some sort of European fetish, I admit I was scared into abstinence. Looking back, I’m not sure why I fell for it, as this gynae was pretty unconvinced by my hunger too. (“You do NOT need extra food just because you’re pregnant!” she said menacingly.) I came home to have the baby, who was then so overdue that I did have a glass of wine on a few occasions. And how I laughed with my London mates about the silly LA people and their fussiness, as we drank that wine and chomped our way through cakes.

But it isn’t a good idea to drink when you’re pregnant. It just isn’t. The NHS have a reasonably relaxed attitude to the occasional wee dram, but the idea that you can have a wine or a beer every night with no effect on the foetus has always seemed a bit nuts. And now it’s been proven. So I must reluctantly thank that LA woman for scaring me into behaving myself while up the duff, and boringly encourage my friends to put the Shiraz on hold until they are, erm, breastfeeding.

Don’t fret over Pret

Still, if you’re not pregnant or awaiting heart surgery, you don’t need to abstain from anything, which proves three of my closest friends are just plain mental. This trio of food fetishists are counting down the days until December, when they can eat some Pret a Manger Christmas sandwich special thing.

Day in, day out, on a group email that is now a hundred years long, my chums salivate over this future sandwich, longing for it like the first cuckoo of spring. Annoyingly, it’s already in the shops, but Rachel and Courtney have strict rules about it Not Being Christmas Yet.

As I write, Matt has gone rogue, broken down the fourth wall and eaten one. I pray the others will soon realise there is no joy in waiting, and follow suit, or I shall be forced to wedge these deranged friends between two slabs of bread with a soggy blob of cranberry sauce and eat them.

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