Nov 262010

“Well, I hope you’re happy. You just gave your baby fetal alcohol syndrome. You now have to live with that for the rest of your life.” – OB to mother 22 weeks along who had drank a small glass of wine.

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 November 26, 2010  OB, prenatal  Add comments

  52 Responses to “"…You Just Gave Your Baby Fetal Alcohol Syndrome…"”

  1. That is stupid. Most doctors will tell you a glass of wine a day is perfectly fine after the first trimester.

  2. Wow I hope she RAN out of there. Studies on FAS involved women who drank 5 or more alcoholic beverages per day throughout pregnancy. A small glass of wine has been shown sometimes beneficial.
    Someone had to graduate dead last from medschool….

  3. this provider needs to be reported as he/she is incompetent to say the least! I am so sorry for your experience! please tell us what you did after this comment.

  4. Let’s bring back Prohibition, at least for pregnant women. All expecting mothers will be routinely tested for drugs in their urine and bloodstream whenever they are examined, including when they step into a maternity ward, and any mothers who test positive will be immediately reported to CPS and their poor neglected/abused babies put into protective custody with more responsible and deserving families.

    This has happened, by the way. I think I read about it on The UnNeccesarean, but maybe it was on Peaceful Parenting or The Feminist Breeder – anyway, a family had their newborn removed on the spot because the hospital routinely tested for drug abuse, and the mother tested positive for narcotics because she had eaten a poppy seed bagel just before checking in.

    In some states, expecting mothers and birthing mothers who test positive for drugs are served criminal charges and, if convicted, wind up in prison. You’d think rehab and probation might be a more sensible option, since it keeps the family intact, but the assumption is that the baby is better off without a mother who has used drugs, no matter what, and the mother is guilty of felonious child endangerment and doesn’t deserve her child, no matter what.

    I personally disapprove of this sort of absolutism.

    Maybe it’s because I get migraines in pregnancy, and on occasion, have been in the ER begging for opiates because Tylenol just wasn’t helping, and the agony was too much to bear.

    Maybe it’s because I’ve had the occasional goblet of white wine or half bottle of beer while pregnant, trusting my body to cue me to stop when it had had enough. I take a more European approach to alcohol – in pregnancy, or out of it: a little, in moderation, is not only okay, it’s a beverage rather than a vice. I met plenty of European students when I was doing my graduate study at Oxford, and none of them had FAS.

    I’m pretty sure none of them were moaning from the pain of constant urinary tract infections despite their lack of the traditional American mutilation, too, but that’s another can of worms.

    • Not to pick nits, but really, Europeans with FASD don’t typically wind up studying at Oxford (where I once worked as a student counselor). And you’re right that occasional alcohol in moderation probably doesn’t cause FASDs. Because we really don’t know how much is too much, or in what patterns, I would still advise against alcohol in pregnancy (and I work with a lot of little kids with fetal alcohol brains–and that’s sad!) but I agree that a little is probably not going to cause a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. That said, babies are routinely tested for drugs in their system and if they find any, typically social services detain them. Alcohol is trickier because it clears the system so much faster, so these kids often don’t get diagnosed until much later on.

      And this doctor is an ass and a jerk!

      • The results of studies proving that FAS is real deal with children whose mothers are obviously alcoholics – drinking an average of five or more glasses of wine at a time on a regular basis.

        Since there were plenty of Europeans at Oxford when I was there, and it could be assumed that their mothers took the European attitude of “a little every now and then probably won’t hurt” rather than the American one of “we don’t know for sure, better to be safe than sorry, so don’t even sip from a chalice of consecrated wine at the communion rail on Sundays or YOU MIGHT BE SORRY.” Which to me was sufficient to reassure me that occasional, light imbibing would not cause any degree of FAS.

        About the routine drug testing of mothers and/or infants: that invasion of privacy is another reason I choose to homebirth. It’s not that I have a drug habit to hide, or even occasional use, it’s that I have a philosophical and moral objection to automatically testing mothers and infants for drugs. It’s invasive of body and privacy, and it assumes guilt before innocence.

        • How is that an invasion of privacy. Drugs are illegal and harmful to babies. Testing mothers is a way to better out world we need to quit patting ppl on the hand. If a baby didn’t stop them from doing drugs rehab won’t either. The deserve jail for hurting a baby for their own selfish WANTS.

    • I take the same approach (though I’m surrounded by Scousers, not Oxford natives ;-) ). Anyway, there was a more recent study that showed moderate/light alcohol consumption in pregnancy did no harm and may benefit.

  5. During my first pregnancy (high risk) my OB actually recommended a small glass of wine (never more than 4 ounces in a night and no more than 1-2 nights in a single week) every once in a while to help improove my circulation and calm me down whenever I got too stessed out. When I started having painful braxton-hicks later in the pregnancy, he told me to have 2-4 ounces of wine and a warm bath and if the contractions still continued, come in to L&D to be checked. That was almost 10 years ago, so the OB is way under educated. And even if there was room for concern, to talk to an expecting mother (or any human being that matter) like this is completely unacceptable.

  6. what do you call a med student who graduates last from med school?


    Obviously, some of them you can tell better than others. OP I hope that you found another OB quickly!

  7. The ONLY reason women are told to avoid all alcohol during pregnancy is because it would be unethical to do double-blind studies involving women drinking different amounts of alcohol during pregnancy, which is the only accurate way to test alcohol thresholds for FAS. As the sister of an adoptee with FAS, this is SO insulting to me I can’t even think straight. My sister has FAS not because her biological mother had an occasional glass of wine; she was a drug-addicted alcoholic who drank 3-7 beverages a day.

    When I had my son last year, my midwife recommended a glass of wine because stress is actually more dangerous to pregnancy than a half a glass of wine. I didn’t drink, but the point is that there are professionals who disagree that ANY amount of alcohol is ALWAYS damaging.

  8. I cannot imagine the psychological damage this doctor did to this mother.

  9. WOW, just WOW! Some docs RECOMMEND having a glass or two of wine a week once you’re out of the first tri. Hope the OP RAN to another doc/midwife. Crazy.

  10. You know what?


    There is NO study that PROVES that in SOME NUMBER of women/babies, a single glass of wine DOESN’T cause FAS (or FAE). “Common sense” tells us that this is probably not true, or only very rarely true. But WE DON’T KNOW.


    If “we” don’t know?


    There is NO study that PROVES that in ALL women/babies, a single glass of wine ALWAYS causes FAS (or FAE).

    Thus, I call BS to the fourth power.

  11. Well, damn! I guess Europe if full of babies with FAS. Because those mothers may cut back on their intake, but most don’t cut it out.

    • Ditto. When I was teaching we had a family move from France for the Dad to do some kind of study program with Mayo Clinic. The mom saw that I was having a rough day and said “I bet that you can’t wait to have a glass of wine tonight.” I was very obviously pregnant and so was she.

  12. Wow, so my perfectly healthy 4 month old son MUST have FAS from the glass of champagne I had in my second trimester… I should get him into therapy! So not only is he a zombie (from homebirth etc), but he’s an FAS Zombie baby.

  13. 7 in 10 women admit to drinking SOMETHING alcoholic during pregnancy. 1 of those seven admit to having 7 or more drinks PER WEEK THROUGHOUT PREGNANCY. 1 in 12,000 babies is born with FAS. At least, according to some of the research I’ve done on this subject.

    Clearly, we are alarmist in America with the whole FAS thing.

    I also wonder if this doctor says the same thing to women who come in and didn’t know they were pregnant yet and smoked or drank before they found out. I also wonder how OK he is with the use of medications for mom’s health during pregnancy, or the use of narcotics during labor, which is surely worse for a baby than a glass of wine.

    I KNEW I was pregnant and drank a beer the night before I took the home test with my son. I was 10 days past ovulation. 9 lbs 14 ounces of boy was pushed out on my bedroom floor and he remains very, very healthy to this day, no FAS.

    “No known safe amount” is not the same as “Any amount is poison”.

    • Three words, which can also be used to explain why the vast majority of American mothers feel safer being cared for by an obstetric surgeon or at least a hospitalist CNM rather than by a midwife who does homebirths; why more than a third of American mothers wind up with scarred abdomens and cut uteri; why the vast majority of interventions (including Pitocin induction/augmentation and automatic epidurals for “unbearable” pain); why we treat newborns with drugs minutes after birth, assuming that they are ALL born to mothers with STDs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and infectious diseases like hepatitis -

      Culture Of Fear

  14. The hell? *facepalm* I guess basically all of the rest of the Western world is screwed, then? What a moron.

    (Tiiiiny pedantic note: it should be “had drunk,” not “had drank.” English major. Sorry. /pedantry)

  15. holding slleping baby and typing w/ one hand.

    so one drink will give a baby fas yet doctors say it is perfectly safe to give mothers narcotics during births. yeah right.

  16. WOW, on that note have any of you read Origins? I’ve found it rather fascinating especially in context to this subject. The affect of alcohol on a developing baby is something that I have always wanted more answers about. I’ve always wondered if the birth defects suffered by 4 of my siblings were the result of my mothers consumption of small amounts of alcohol and drugs. Though there is no proof of such a thing there is still no proof to negate it either. At any rate this doctor was lacking in bed side manner and should have addressed this patient in a more professional way.

  17. as an interesting aside, before Magnesium Sulfate, IV alcohol was given to women to try to stop preterm labor

    • In “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth”, she recommends a small glass of beer each day to stop preterm contractions. Once that mom got to term, she had to stop the beer so that she could go into labor. If I have preterm contractions, I will go with the small glass of wine before I ever do mag sulfate – that stuff is really uncomfortable for the mom.

  18. WOW, talk about fearmongering!!! I don’t drink while pregnant except for an occasional sip or two of my husband’s beer/wine. But it’s MY choice, and the fact that they don’t actually know how much you need to drink to cause FAS coupled with the fact that European OBs advise a glass of wine a day…..yeah this is complete crap.

  19. I just wanted to add that although we don’t know how much is too much, a fetal alcohol brain is markedly different from a normal one: it’s smaller, and much, much less complex, and will never look, nor function, like a normal brain. I don’t believe it’s possible to do that kind of damage with an occasional drink (maybe not even with daily drink!) I have also never met a child with the full FAS features whose mother drank only occasionally, although many will, of course, be less than honest about their consumption. And what alcohol can do to the fetal brain is significantly different than what drugs do–more devastating and more permanent. Not that I condone the use of either, but their effects just aren’t comparable.

  20. In Australia, alot of babies born with FAS come from lower socioeconomic populations such as the indigenous population where alcoholism is a major problem. Unfortunately, alot of these babies end up in foster care from birth as the parent(s) are unable to care for them. They are the cutest kids but it is so sad to watch them struggle with development.
    That aside, one glass of wine is not going to hurt, 2 glasses of wine is not going to hurt, going out and getting totally wrecked one weekend probably won’t hurt (who has done that not knowing they are pregnant and then stressed for the next 8 mths).
    I hope the OP left this sOB before he did more damage.

    • In Australia, alot of babies born with FAS come from lower socioeconomic populations such as the indigenous population where alcoholism is a major problem. Unfortunately, alot of these babies end up in foster care from birth as the parent(s) are unable to care for them. They are the cutest kids but it is so sad to watch them struggle with development.

      Why the passive voice? What causes this widespread issue? And what was the point of this comment?

  21. Oh how I wish i’d bookmarked it! They JUST released a study not more than a fortnight ago that (while not double blind) compaired minimal drinking during pregnancy and found babies with mothers who drank 1-2 drinks a week had no worse outcomes than those whose mothers had nothing to drink. So guess what guys, there are now real ‘scientific’ studies rather than just good old common sense that says what they term ‘very light drinking’ is perfectly safe.

  22. I have to admit, I giggled out loud at this one. It’s just so dramatic!

  23. This one made we wince. Over here in the UK, food and drink guidelines seem to change dramatically in a short space of time. Each pregnancy I have, the list of what to avoid has changed and I had noted that now it says ‘no alcohol for 3 months prior to conceiving until breast feeding has ceased’ on the list. I am not effected by this change, as I’m tee-total myself, but I do wonder about the poor mums who read this advice and then worry about what they did prior to knowing these gems of advice…why say ’3 months prior’ and then only give us the info when we get to booking (@ 6-10 weeks gest)? Are pregnant women just easy targets to try to guilt-trip or lay the blame of society’s mishaps firmly at their feet? I was sat in the EPU, having already been told my baby had died, and picked up one of the many leaflets left for us to read, and it basically said all drugs are bad for your unborn baby, including paracetamol which could cause damage to the placenta. I was horrified, as I’d taken paracetamol at 6 weeks for a tooth removal, and even now I wonder if it contributed to my baby’s death. This pregnancy, I refused to take any drugs (just in case) other than my BP drugs, and yet the doctors keep urging me to take paracetamol! I told my GP why I was avoiding it, and he laughed and said that the data isn’t conclusive!!! I still feel better avoiding it, but wish they hadn’t added made me feel so guilty in the first place.

    This poor mum, who’s had 1 drink, what can she do other than worry about her baby. And if, heaven forbid, there was anything wrong at birth, she could be left wondering if she was to blame. And as a previous poster said, the amount of drugs the OBs shove into us, given half a chance, compared to a single glass of wine…shame these doctors don’t engage their brains before opening their mouths!

    • Wow, didn’t know those were the guidelines now. I don’t pay attention to them, personally. The guidelines changed twice, I think, during my first pregnancy. The GP and midwife were both of the opinion that moderate drinking was OK. I had a glass of wine a week during most of the pregnancy. I didn’t drink with my daughter simply because I was too nauseated, and alcohol is contraindicated with nausea meds.

    • I’ve been watching your obstetric and pediatric approach nudge ever closer to the paradigm held in the United States.

      It’s depressing to me.

      BTW, I breastfeed, I take Tylenol and Benadryl on a fairly regular basis because I have frequent headaches and I suffer from allergies, I drink one or two cups of coffee per day to manage my allergic asthma as well as the constipated phases of the IBS I developed after my c-section in 2002, and I drink occasional alcohol – a bottle of microbrew or a goblet of wine here and there.

      The people who write the guidelines and the people who believe them and would tell me that I am poisoning my child(ren) with my diet and OTC medications can go milk a moose.

      • “Your” referring to the UK, that is, not to you, personally.

        • And I totally missed the sentence about your waiting in the EPU and having been told your baby was dead… I am so sorry. My condolences.

          FWIW, I highly doubt paracetamol was responsible. It’s a Class A drug in the PDR, so its effect on a developing fetus is well known and researched and the drug is classified as safe for a reason. Also, I saw my placenta up close after birthing Catharine, who sat in my womb through nine months of constant Tylenol (American brand name) use and occasional overdose when I had a bad migraine. The placenta was obviously healthy and normal. I’m pretty sure lots of expecting mothers pop paracetamol. Please don’t blame yourself.

  24. How many women go out w/friends to a bar and get drunk, just to find out 2 days later they’re pg? This is during those critical 1st few weeks of pg when most cell division takes place. With my 1st and 2nd, I was drunk the night before I discovered I was pg. With my 3rd, I had a glass of wine during our annual New Years Eve party. With my 4th, I got drunk with my brother at his wedding. I also had a glass of wine a few times a week throughout my entire pg. None of my kids show any signs of FAS. In fact, they’re all gifted and advanced! A pg woman knows her body, and knows how much is too much. How dare any dr scold a mother like that while looking in his crystal ball!!!!

  25. *gawks at screen*

    Did this doctor get their degree from the internet? Every reliable source of statistical data shows that one drink does not Fetal Alcohol Syndrome give. While it is obviously better to be cautious when pregnant, to say rubbish like this to a pregnant mother under the false shield of medicine is blatantly ignorant and nothing more than a horrible scare tactic.

  26. After reading all this I could really go for a drink…

  27. My mother-in-law lost her first child to premature labor. When the second pregnancy threatened similar symptoms, her OB put her on bedrest and alcohol for three months — every time she’d start contracting again, she was told to drink Jack Daniels till the contractions stopped.

    My spouse was born at nearly 40 weeks, skipped the first grade, joined a scientific honor society, and wrote an honors thesis at Amherst. Clearly an FAS baby, eh?

  28. I have several thoughts, one, that ETOH(alcohol) MAY be more dangerous in the second trimester than in the first or third. It’s thought that this is when it does the most damage to the developing brain.

    Next, The US seems to suffer from, “I must, as a medical pro, say the most conservative recommendation out there or any problem or defect could potentially be blamed on me.” As well as the expectation that Jane Q Public will take a mile when given an inch. So therefore the medical pros who gave her that inch are now at fault for any harm to her baby. (And if you are then at fault you become at risk for a lawsuit, no matter how far fetched it seems)

    It SUCKS!

  29. I was told when dealing with obnoxious and irritating (but not dangerous) prodromal labor at term to go out and have a small glass of wine to relax me and help me sleep.

    I’ve had a glass of wine or a beer once every two weeks or so in almost every one of my pregnancies. I don’t recall exactly. I know I didn’t have alcohol every day, and when I did have any it was always a small amount with a meal.

    None of my children are affected by any sort of learning disorder, or show any signs of delayed development.

    We don’t know exactly how much alcohol consumption causes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. It is fairly certain that ONE glass does not cause it.


  30. Tried to respond twice now but it said I “timed out” which is irritating because it takes me a long time to type anything out with a nurseling and 2 toddlers crawling all over me…
    All I said was that I drank wine coolers regularly to stop preterm labor with my son. He’s a healthy happy 2 year old now, loves cuddles and creepy crawlies, addicted to milk, talks at the speed of a runaway train – I understand MOST of it! Lol!
    *PLEASE* don’t time out on me again…

  31. I’ve just read up on FAS on their website and they are VERY peeved about the scare mongering going on with pregnancys. FAS babies are born to alcoholic mothers who frequently drank 5 or more alcoholic beverages throughout pregnancy. Scaring women who are trying to grow a human being, coping with sickness, headaches, hormones going crazy and trying to deal with the fact they have a whole little person to care for for the rest of their lives is just wrong. A glass, 2, even 3 of wine every now and then hasn’t been show to cause harm to your baby. I got engaged and had 2 glasses of champers AND a small glass of wine, a few weeks later, had a glass with my xmas dinner, and then a small vodka and lemonade at new years. I’m not fretting I hurt my baby. My midwife is happy, my baby is clearly happy judging by all the rib kicking I’m getting, and I can’t wait to meet my healthy baby. Enjoy your pregnancy and don’t listen to all the scare mongering out there, just be sensible.

  32. I have just read most of the above comments and am concerned that the internet has so much false info that pregnant women do not know what to do! I am a FASD field trainer (via CDC sponsored trainings). There is so much new information in the last decade. Genetics plays a large part in determining which baby will be affected by alcohol exposure. And yes, one night of a binge can be very detrimental….maybe not resulting in FAS or FASD but it damages cells, (yours and your babies)so it might result in a reading disability, ADHD, behavioral disorders etc. Some of these less visable disabilities are not recognized until after elementary school which is why the studies that follow infants exposed to alcohol up to age 5 but not longer,are invalid. I am raising a son whose birthmom stopped drinking as soon as she found out she was pregnant at the beginning of the 4th month which was too late. It is not just women who are alcoholics that have affected babies…and Europe has plenty of FAS/FASD’s and currently are advised to not drink in pregnancy. Maybe that is where the genetics comes in to play as it does with many genetic disorders–geographic familial origins are a factor. In any case, it is 9 months that playing Russian roulette with a glass of wine should be avoided.

  33. It doesn’t matter what she did. A glass or 50 glasses. How is that statement going to behoove anyone?
    But there are plenty of doctors who are plain stupid.
    In reality, we have to deal with what is.
    In the most constructive way.

    That’s it.

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