By DR. KAREN LATIMER
A friend put her four-year-old son in a well-deserved time out. His angry response was, "Mommy, I am going to put you in jail." She turned away, so he wouldn't see her smile (little boys can be so cute).
"And, in jail," he continued, "there is no coffee and there is no wine." Her smile quickly faded. Little boys can be cute and perceptive. He really knew how to hit her where it would hurt.
Over the years, paranoia, bad information and an increasingly narcissistic culture perverted pregnancy from the most natural life stage into its own kind of prison. Rather than enjoying – or, in my case, muddling through – it, women were told every decision they made, from what they put in their mouth to the cosmetics they used to the objects they lifted, would have significant impact on their fetuses.
Most of us instinctively knew this was untrue. Our bodies were made to reproduce and could tell us much more than the alarmist media. Our natural instinct is to protect the child we are carrying. During my first pregnancy, my craving for red meat was so strong, I was like a T Rex on a hunt. Not surprisingly, my bloodwork showed me to be anemic. For the first trimester of all four of my pregnancies, I had no taste for caffeine or alcohol and naturally avoided them. By the second trimester, I wanted the occasional cup of coffee or glass of wine. Despite the questioning eye from some baristas or waiters, I drank what I wanted. What I wanted was a glass of wine every two weeks or so. I would sip it slowly, and when it was done, I drank non-alcoholic beverages out of a stemmed glass.
The "rules of pregnancy" were a result of two things. One, significant alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse by pregnant women can result in impaired infants, preterm birth and long term effects. Two, well-meaning crusaders decided it would be better to treat women like children and make the blanket statement,"You cannot have any of this." With no science to back up the claims, they decided rather than allow women to listen to their bodies, and live normally and wisely through their pregnancy, they would use guilt and scare tactics to turn pregnancy into nine months of worry and self-obsession. Color your hair, have a pastrami sandwich, continue to exercise or eat sushi and you are a bad mother. You are a bad mother before you've even laid eyes on your child.
The truth is this: You should take good care of yourself while you are pregnant, but you should not stress over it. Anxiety isn't going to help you or your baby. You can drink coffee in moderation, and it is my opinion, you can have an occasional cocktail if you have a taste for it. Unless you have a drinking problem, you will naturally stop after one, well before you catch a buzz. If you feel more comfortable avoiding alcohol and caffeine completely, follow your instincts.
The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology encourages complete abstinence from alcohol, because the effects of small amounts are unknown. The recommendation is based on the fact that since there is no evidence on the effect of light drinking during pregnancy, it is easier to recommend abstaining completely. Yet, we have centuries of women drinking alcohol safely through pregnancies. We have the evidence from the many cultures in which women put few restrictions on themselves. We have billions of healthy children born under these circumstances.
You are an intelligent adult, and you love the child inside you. You still have to live through the 40 weeks she is growing inside you. Make choices that feel right to you. If you want a second cup of coffee, have it. If you want to enjoy a glass of wine at the end of along day, enjoy it. If your dark roots are depressing you, color your hair. Know the facts, but don't succumb to the fear. Women have been getting pregnant for well ... forever. Focus on an overall healthy lifestyle while you are pregnant. Take charge of your own well-being and that of your child. Be smart, be reasonable, but do not make yourself crazy. You are about to have a baby. Crazy will come soon enough.
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