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Why I Drank During My Pregnancy

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The circumstances surrounding my pregnancy were unique, to say the least. My husband Tom and I spent the summer in Mozambique, and we planned to spend a few days in Johannesburg before flying to New York City and onto Chicago for a wedding and coming home to New Orleans. During our last few days in Mozambique, I developed a skin rash; I thought it was related to a new laundry detergent and didn’t worry.

My skin got worse and worse, and although it wasn’t painful, it looked terrifying (if you are having skin issues, try these 5 Greens for Great Skin). When we got to New York, I went to an emergency clinic. They diagnosed me with Pityriasis, also known as “The Christmas Tree Rash"—which I found out later is sometimes common during pregnancy—and prescribed me a strong steroid cream and pill. It was a festive time, and I was drinking more than usual. I had no idea I was pregnant.

My period was late, but I thought it was related to travel (these 10 Other Everyday Things That Can Affect Your Period may also be causing you to miss it). But when a friend of mine also told me that she dreamt I returned home pregnant, I decided to take an at-home pregnancy test. It was positive. I immediately phoned the doctor; I was worried about my alcohol consumption, but I was most worried about the steroids. I don’t normally take a lot of medication—I’m reluctant to even take an Advil unless absolutely necessary—and because it’s not part of my normal routine to put medications in my body, I was worried about the impact of the steroid. The medicine came with a warning about taking it if you were pregnant, about to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, but I think that’s a pretty standard warning on just about anything these days.

Still, my doctor assured me that her patients with Lupus take stronger prescriptions than the steroids I was on, and told me not to worry about the alcohol since the body naturally protects the embryo from those toxins until implantation, which normally occurs at four weeks. My pregnancy was in the very early days. My doctor also informed me that the impact of stress on the body, as well as the hormonal and other changes that stress causes, were much worse than an occasional glass of wine and encouraged me to just remain calm and healthy; she stressed that an occasional drink to celebrate would not harm the baby or me (but these 6 Foods Are Definitely Off-Limits During Pregnancy). I think doctors don’t want to encourage drinking for fear that women might go overboard, but that’s one reason I really like my doctor: She told me that my level of drinking was absolutely OK and that one or two drinks per month with a healthy diet and exercise wouldn’t do any harm. I did a little research on my own as well—there are sections in pregnancy books regarding alcohol consumption and eating certain foods—and once I got past the initial trimester and the worries of miscarriage, I felt that I could have a glass of wine to celebrate important occasions with family and friends. Books generally warn against “binge drinking” and very regular drinking; I was not a heavy drinker to begin with and clearly was not binge drinking.

Throughout the remaining two trimesters of my pregnancy, I probably had one to two glasses of wine per month, and slightly more over the holiday season. I never get drunk. And when I did drink, it was just one per sitting and usually while out to dinner or celebrating something special. I did not drink anything other than wine. While I usually like beer, the thought of it while pregnant did nothing for me, and I generally don’t drink cocktails or hard alcohol, so it wasn't a big change for me. It was also helpful having like-minded friends with whom I was able to talk about a lot of things related to my pregnancy, including drinking. Many of my friends also enjoyed the occasional glass of wine while pregnant, so it wasn’t unusual to them at all, and my husband understood the safety of my choice to drink on occasion. I am very healthy, I eat well, and I exercised often at the time (and here are 7 Reasons Why You Should Workout When You're Pregnant). Those things are much more important to a person’s overall health.

Now that my daughter is a healthy toddler, I am all the more confident that the choice to consume the occasional glass of wine during my pregnancy was the right one. If I get pregnant again, I would probably do things very similarly. That said, as with everything else having to do with a woman’s body, it is a personal choice. This is what worked for me, and I'd encourage every woman to do her research and talk with her doctor to decide what works for her.

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