Alcohol during your pregnancy
Finding out that you’re pregnant can be a time for great celebration and joy – and what goes better with a celebration than alcohol? But alcohol and pregnancy really don’t mix.
Experts are generally a little bit unclear about how much alcohol is ‘safe’ during pregnancy. Exactly what is okay for a pregnant woman to drink is generally very hard to determine and, because the risks of consuming too much are so serious, health professionals, on the whole, give the same advice to all expectant mothers: do not drink at all when you’re expecting a baby.
There are a number of serious health problems linked to alcohol consumption in pregnancy, including premature birth and miscarriage (particularly if alcohol is consumed in the first trimester, which is the riskiest time for you and your baby). The baby’s growth and development can also be affected negatively.
And, while the amount of risk to your baby increases the more you drink, many healthcare professionals, say any amount of alcohol is too much.
Don’t be tempted
While it’s true that some studies have suggested light drinking (one or two units once or twice a week) after the first trimester is unlikely to be harmful, the UK’s Chief Medical Officers encourage a no alcohol in pregnancy approach as it is the only way to be sure that the risk is totally eliminated.
For some mums-to-be, removing alcohol from their lifestyle will be an easy sacrifice to make – it may be that they’re teetotal already. For others, however, it could prove more of a struggle. If you have found quitting alcohol to be a challenge, there are things you can do to make giving up much easier on yourself.
So, what will you do when your friends are going out for a drink in your favourite bar, or the family comes around for a party?
While experts say that fizzy, soft drinks are safe in small doses, they are not the best choice of replacement for your usual rum and coke or glass of Prosecco. Many postmix drinks (those served in pubs and restaurants) and bottled fizzy drinks are loaded with caffeine, sugar, and, in the case of the diet varieties, artificial sweeteners. They have no nutritional value and excessive amounts of caffeine, such as those found in cola, coffee, and tea, have been found to increase the risk of miscarriages.
So, what can you drink that is healthy for you and your baby?
A plain and simple alternative is good old fashioned water – after all, it is absolutely essential that you stay hydrated while pregnant. You can always go ‘sparkling’ to give it some pzazz and why not try adding fruit slices such as lemon, orange or cucumber, to make it more appealing.
But if the idea of sticking just to water for nine months straight leaves you feeling bereft, then there are other options.
Many mums-to-be find that coconut water is a more palatable choice than plain water, and it’s believed to have many health benefits. Fresh fruit juices are a refreshing way to get nutrients, but be wary of pre-packaged juices, though, as they may contain a lot of sugar and artificial sweeteners. Likewise, vegetable juices are good for health, while milk-based drinks such as milkshakes and fruit smoothies, act as a source of calcium, protein, and vitamin B-12.
And if you need to celebrate, there are some non-alcoholic, or “virgin” cocktails that are really quite good to drink, or you can have fun mixing your own for nights in.
Replacing drinking with other activities
To help get your mind off your evening glass of wine or beer, why not try a new activity to distract yourself. There are plenty of ways to relax and focus your attention on something else. Have a warm bath, read a book, go to the cinema, go for a walk, start a prenatal yoga class, or take up a creative project of some kind. Occupying your mind like this can help you forget all about the bottle of Chardonnay sitting in the fridge.
Hopefully, your partner will be prepared to support you through this. If your other half regularly indulges in an alcoholic drink each evening, and you think the sight of this will make you crave a drink too, let them know. The same goes for having alcohol around the house. Why not ask your partner to support you by cutting back or becoming teetotal with you, so that you don’t feel as isolated.
On a more serious note, if you feel as though you are having serious problems giving up alcohol, then you must let your midwife or doctor know. There are resources available to you to help you give up. Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline and can be reached on 0300 123 1110. You can also attend Alcoholic Anonymous meetings to help you quit with the support of a group.
Above all, keep in mind that you are doing your unborn baby a massive favour by not downing several Cosmopolitans whenever you meet up with friends, and this should help you say ‘No! to alcohol. And, of course, it’s only a temporary thing, so you can look forward to a time when it is safe to drink again – you never know, pregnancy might be the turning over of a whole new alcohol-related leaf.