On Vitamin: Discussing alcohol and being pregnant | Life

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Dear dr Blonde: I just found out that I am seven weeks pregnant with my second child. I had no idea that I was pregnant, as I have always had irregular periods. At the time I found out, I had been drinking a glass of wine periodically with dinner. I eat well overall, but I am concerned about whether the wine will affect my unborn child.

Several people have told me that they had a glass of wine every day during their pregnancy and that nothing happened to their baby. And a friend of mine recently told me that her doctor said that a glass of wine once in a while during pregnancy was unlikely to do any harm. How would someone know if that were safe, considering “once in a while” could differ from person to person? Please clarify this mess for me. — RB, San Francisco

Dear RB: Congratulations on your pregnancy. The question of whether your wine consumption might affect your child is difficult to answer with any degree of certainty; there are many variables, and we simply do not know.

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Research and statistical tables have found an association between the level of alcohol consumption with the subsequent occurrence of problems for the developing child. Cohort studies — ones that follow a group of people for a period of time — have linked heavy drinking to higher risks of fetal abnormalities and death. Note that mention of “heavy drinking.”

You are not the first person to learn they were pregnant while engaging in a healthful lifestyle that included a light-to-moderate consumption of wine. It is not an uncommon circumstance; please don’t let it wreck you with any hints of guilt. Having had the alcohol with food is important, as alcohol gets absorbed directly through the stomach lining, which explains why drinking on an empty stomach gets felt rapidly.

We are dealing with statistics and risk factors, and the reality it’s unlikely there will ever be a definite amount of alcohol proven “safe” during pregnancy. Recommendations should come down on the side of abstinence, as no one wants to encourage any behavior that could result in problems.

Be sure to discuss all of this with your OB/GYN. Check the information pages on the use of alcohol during pregnancy from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at b.link/ufg4tj and from the National Library of Medicine at b.link/yfmpqh.

There is no question that an excessive amount of alcohol is bad, and that alcohol is not essential for the health of your child. Of all the times in life, pregnancy is not the time to take risks, even small ones. My best to you and your family.

Ed Blonz, Ph.D., is a nutrition scientist and an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco. He is the author of the digital book “The Wellness Supermarket Buying Guide” (2012), which is also available as a free digital resource at blonz.com/guide.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com.