There’s a long list of things that people tell pregnant women they should avoid: soft cheese, sushi, undercooked eggs and coffee. At the top of the list? Alcohol.
According to experts, warning women to avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy is sexist and overblown.
The Guardian UK reports that the revised guidelines advising pregnant women not to drink at all, which were implemented in January 2016, are not based on reliable evidence.
A group of academics, doctors and maternal rights campaigners argue that the warnings could lead to unnecessary anxiety. They go as far as suggesting that some mothers-to-be may even be having an abortion because they are worried they may have damaged their unborn baby by drinking too much.
Jennie Bristow, a senior lecturer in sociology, criticised the overblown warnings given to expecting mothers. “Does it simply make for healthier pregnancies or is it scaring women about their bodies and their babies? Promoting fear is not a good way to care for pregnant women,” she told The Guardian UK.
Ellie Lee, the director of Kent University’s centre for parenting and culture studies, added that the advice is sexist because it causes anxiety and prevents women from socialising. “The exclusion of women from an ordinary activity on the basis of ‘precaution’ can more properly be called sexist than benign,” she said.
In Australia, the DrinkWise website advises women to abstain from drinking if they are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding. It says, “Pregnant women should never become intoxicated. This is because alcohol crosses from the mother’s blood stream into the baby’s blood stream. So when you drink, so does your baby.”
There is no strong evidence that low-level drinking causes harm to unborn babies, reports the ABC. However, moderate level drinking may increase the risk of preterm birth and behavioral problems down the track.