Oh how we love to tell a pregnant woman what to do. And as I’ve said once before: of all the risks facing a baby we seem to give special precedence to any that can possibly involve further controlling the lives of women. The public health message on pregnancy and alcohol is a prime example, it is unnecessarily heavy-handed and simplistic. And what happens when a health policy is like that? People ignore it.
The results reveal that 90 per cent of respondents think alcohol should be avoided while pregnant, however a third of all women surveyed admitted to consuming at least one drink while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Of the third of mothers who consumed alcohol during pregnancy or breastfeeding were the majority of them drinking a lot, occasionally or only ever the one single drink? They’re all lumped in together here so you can’t deduce anything of real meaning but what we are supposed to conclude from this figure is that women are ‘naughty’ – they are going against the Australian alcohol guidelines. How does the public health discussion respond to such results? In a heavy-handed and simplistic fashion, of course.
Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation deputy chair, Scott Wilson, says the fact that about 30 per cent of people surveyed had drunk during this time shows that there is a need for greater public education…
“But clearly when it comes to foetal alcohol [syndrome] and a range of other problems there isn’t enough of a focus on that.”
Foetal alcohol syndrome is a real problem but not one which is associated with light drinking during pregnancy, all the same it is liberally used as the big stick in public health policy to keep women in line. But to continually trot out ‘foetal alcohol syndrome’ as soon as there is the mere mention of a woman drinking a single glass of alcohol in an entire nine month pregnancy (or over the months, or even years, she may spend breastfeeding that child) isn’t educating, it’s silencing.
So, given that we don’t trust women with information you won’t see the unpacking of these research results any time soon in the media:
Conclusions: Children born to mothers who drank up to 1–2 drinks per week or per occasion during pregnancy were not at increased risk of clinically relevant behavioural difficulties or cognitive deficits compared with children of abstinent mothers. Heavy drinking during pregnancy appears to be associated with behavioural problems and cognitive deficits in offspring at age 3 years whereas light drinking does not.
(Thanks to Lauredhel and Kris for some of the links).
P.S. And something similar regularly goes down in the US, as mentioned a while back over at Feministe.
Sit down, kids, because I have some terrifying news: Sometimes, women drink. And smoke. Sometimes they even smoke marijuana. To top it all off, some of those women are mothers.
Yes, this is the news that USA Today brings us, in an article about post-pregnancy “substance abuse” — a term apparently so loosely-defined that it includes any alcohol use at all.