Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Protecting non-existent children from alcohol

The American Centers (sic) for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued advice to sexually-active American women that they should either stop drinking just in case they accidentally become pregnant, or use contraception every time. Understandably this has created something of a backlash, with some women objecting to being told to change their behaviour for a baby that doesn't exist.

Said one: "Women you are merely baby-bearin' vessels. Treat your body as if you may become pregnant at any minute", while another wrote, "Nope. We aren't incubators". 

The question of whether extremely moderate drinking affects a foetus is by no means clear cut, with some authorities insisting on total abstinence by women trying to become pregnant, while others suggesting otherwise. Australian health authorities advise women who want to conceive against getting drunk, but say: "If you drank small amounts of alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, be reassured that the risk of harm to your baby is low."

The CDC states that, "About half of all US pregnancies are unplanned and, even if planned, most women do not know they are pregnant until they are 4-6 weeks into the pregnancy. This means a woman might be drinking and exposing her developing baby to alcohol without knowing it."

Interestingly, they don't suggest the level of health problems in the unplanned half are higher than the planned half, and if there were reliable data to make such a suggestion, I'm certain they would have made sure we knew about it. Yes, there can be risks caused by drinking during pregnancy, including miscarriage, stillbirth and foetal alcohol syndrome, but the level of risk depends on the amount drunk, how often and at what point during pregnancy the alcohol is consumed. It is not as clear cut as they like to suggest: one slurp from a wine glass and your hypothetical baby is in danger.

It is a pity that bodies like the CDC and our own beloved Alcohol Concern go to the absolute extremes to make their points, implying that the worst-case scenario is the norm. All it does is discredit any real health message that might be worth getting across, but busy-bodies cannot, it seems, help themselves.

Or is there, as some American women think, a hidden agenda of controlling women's behaviour? I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised.


  1. Without the aid of alcohol, a lot of children would never get conceived in the first place ;-)

  2. By coincidence, I've just received an e-mail, ostensibly from fellow beer blogger Paul Bailey, with a link to "Ways To Help Get Pregnant".

    1. Not me Nev, and rather off subject, as I did my breeding 25 years ago!

      Your email address is not in my contacts list, so I’m rather miffed about this. A hacker perhaps?


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