Monday, July 18, 2005

Try to keep to just 10 shots of vodka a week during pregnancy - ??

According to Alko, the Finnish state-run alcohol monopoly, a "reasonable" amount of alcohol can continued to be consumed by women during pregnancy. According to their brochure on Pregnancy and Alcohol, the top-end of a reasonable amount is ten drinks a week. Ideally, this alcohol consumption should be spread through out the week and not take place all at once on the weekend as this may slow the development of the fetus!!!

Yikes!!! What kind of advice is that -- from a company (or rather State) that stands to make money by selling alcohol to pregnant women??

Further, in the brochure:
> 9 out of 10 women in Finland cut back on the amount of alcohol they drink during pregnancy to 1 - 2 drinks a week; many quit entirely.
> About 10% of pregnant women consume more than the recommended amount.
> About 5% of pregnant women consume more than 10 drinks/week.

In the US, the guidelines for alcohol and pregnancy are very black & white and at the other end of the spectrum: no amount of alcohol is recommended for pregnant women. It is also believed that alcohol is the leading cause of birth defects. In the US, 5% of children born with birth defects are born with defects caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

In Sweden, they estimate that 11% of school aged children with learning disabilities are suffering from the effects of alcohol consumed by their mothers during pregnancy.

In Finland, each year 200 - 300 children are born with severe defects due to mothers drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

And Norway recently decided to go for a zero tolerance recommendation for alcohol use during pregnancy.

With alcohol being an entirely optional item of consumption and the dangers to the fetus so thoroughly researched, I don't understand why Alko does not make the recommendation that no alcohol is ideally be consumed during pregnancy? Especially, in a country like Finland where alcohol abuse is high and the drinking culture does not frown upon drunkenness. Why not make it easy for pregnant women to simply say no and to give the fetuses more healthy environment?

More brilliant advice - alcohol and breastfeeding

Alko closes the pregnancy and Alcohol brochure with this information and advice about drinking alcohol and breastfeeding:
alcohol does pass into the mother's milk and the blood alcohol level of the mother's blood and breastmilk can be considered to be the same. So, if a mother is highly intoxicated (eg, 2.0 pro-mil), the amount of alcohol in the milk is 0,2 ml/1 deciliter - an amount so small that the baby would not get drunk (THANK GOODNESS!). However, even such a small amount may cause a child to be restless as they can sense the mother's drunken condition from her stumbling around, etc....and that's why you shouldn't nurse while drunk.

However, the midwives at Kätilöopisto were of a different opinion - don't drink alcohol when you are breastfeeding.

Hmmm, I wonder who knows better?


rollercoaster said...

While on hols in the south of France we meet a Frence couple, of which the woman was a doctor charged with caring for babys/kids/teens from -9 months ... 17 yrs. She commented that alcohol consumed during pregnancy was the *primary* cause of mental retardness in all babys/kids. This caused my pregnant wife to slide under the table with shame as she was enjoying her weekly allowance of one glass of red wine :-) The woman was clear, drinking while pregnant increases risk of childs mental retardness by a measurable amount.

trl_path said...

The reality is that research has not clearly shown any statistical evidence that moderate use (1 glass a day) of alcohol harms the fetus (There are individual researches claiming harm, but the majority of research performed on this specific topic is unable to statistically prove any relation at all between birth defects and moderate use of alcohol). Of course there is clear evidence that serious use of alcohol does harm the fetus. While I think it is a sound advice not to drink any alcohol at all during pregnancy, I see no point in misinforming people that alcohol is by definition harmful to pregnant women.