Alcohol and Pregnancy

Alcohol and Pregnancy

A midwife’s point of view, by Sally Underwood

Harsh habit – Cheers – or NOT?

Alcohol and pregnancy really do not mix. Advice from the Royal college of Obstetricians (RCOG) suggests that is safest to avoid alcohol during your whole pregnancy. This is because alcohol passes through the placenta to your little baby. The more you drink – the risk of harm increases BUT what if, like me when I was having at least 3 of my children, I drank alcohol before I actually realised I was with child? One cannot turn back time, but I was fortunately ok. As soon I had had each of my pregnancies confirmed I quickly reverted to tee total status. The good thing being that placental function is very quick to revert to normality as soon as the alcohol consumption is halted. 

Research indicates that alcohol will increase your chance of miscarriage, affect your baby’s development – physically and mentally, will increase your risk of stillbirth and make you more likely to have a premature birth. It will also affect your new baby during infancy – it will be more vulnerable and prone to infection – for  more information re this look up www.nofas-uk.org(national organisation for fetal alcohol syndrome). 

As a midwife myself, I have routinely been responsible for alerting women of the dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and discouraged its use. It has for several decades been questioned at booking by all health professionals and documented in women’s maternity records. In my practice I believe that most women have listened to our well-meaning advice and believe that they are usually honest – as they really do want the very best for their babies and really hear what we who are ‘with women’ recommend. This is why I found the headlines published in the Telegraph – 16/09/20 slightly troubling- 

‘A single drink – even before the mum knows she is pregnant – will be documented – even without consent……….’ 

It appears the NICE (National Institute of Clinical Evidence) are planning to record drinking habits – not only within maternity records but within her child’s health records – without her consent. The British Pregnancy Advice service is questioning this, as I am, suggesting that this may present barriers between health professionals, and women. Women could become fearful of being honest regarding habits and confidentiality issues will follow. 

We are currently surrounded by so much uncertainty. The Covid pandemic and isolation have been instrumental in triggering heightened anxiety levels amongst us all. These alongside hormonal changes and general pregnancy complications are possibly a reason why more women could be tempted towards the ‘bottle’ today during their pregnancies and alcohol is so readily available.

If you would like to talk to someone about drinking please do talk to us your midwives, your obstetric team or your GP or health visitor. 

However, I do believe that we need to maintain confidentiality and ensure women feel safe to confide with us – without the fear of harsh headlines – which could be hugely harmful….. for years.

Once we know that you have been drinking we can signpost you accordingly. There is so much help and support available today. A problem shared …. And all that does make it better. Promise. 

Probs not Cheers though eh!  

We are in strange and isolating times at present during the Covid pandemic, but please remember support is still out there for you. We are seeing a bigger uptake than ever before in holistic therapies, with a huge focus on self care. For example Yoga for Preganancy is one of the many ways you can learn tools to help relax, feel in control, ease anxiety and reduce fear.

At UB Acadademy we are also proud to offer all of our members a free video in mindfulness created for us by Emma at ‘Made Up Mom’. Her passion for mindfulness is contagious even for the biggest cynics…add on yoga and our Hypnobirthing course and you are on to a winner!

Remember knowledge is power. Invest in yourself, find your support network. Help is out there, don’t be afraid or embarrased to reach for it. You are not alone.

You can read more about Alcohol and Pregnancy on the NHS website and also on the RCOG. 

(The following information is taken from https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/pi-alcohol-and-pregnancy.pdf)

Support for you:

There are a number of reasons why women might drink too much alcohol while they are pregnant: 

-they might not know they are pregnant
-they might feel under pressure to drink when with friends
-they might be trying to cope with problems and stress
-they might not be aware of the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy. 

If you would like to talk to someone about your drinking, you can speak to your midwife, obstetrician, practice nurse, GP or health visitor. Once they know how you are feeling and why you are drinking, the person you tell will be in a better position to offer you the right help and information. 

Further support and reading available…

UK Chief Medical Officers’ Low Risk Drinking Guidelines (Department of Health, 2016), which is available at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/alcohol-consumption-advice-on-low-risk-drinking 

Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline: if you’re worried about your own or someone else’s drinking, you can call this free helpline, in complete confidence; call 03001231110 (weekdays 9am to 8pm, or weekends 11am to 4pm) 

NOFAS-UK (National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome-UK): www.nofas-uk.org The FASD Trust: www.fasdtrust.co.uk 

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