Blending wine with pregnancy
Wine and urine – not a popular blend today. But in the Middle Ages, the two were often mixed to find out whether a woman was pregnant. It is said the colour change was the key to discovering if you were with child.
However, wine and pregnancy are viewed as less compatible today. Now 33 weeks pregnant I admit I have savoured a few glasses a week to keep me sane. However, strangers have been making my drinking decisions for me: for example, at a BYO restaurant, I took along a bottle of wine and was looking forward to a glass with my meal but the waitress cleared away the glass on the table as I sat down!
A fellow wine journalist revealed she’d been given disapproving looks for judging at a wine show while pregnant. Her children have turned out fine.
In Annie Murphy Paul’s “How the nine months before birth shape the rest of our lives” she writes that pregnancy and alcohol haven’t always been viewed as incompatible:
“Pregnant women were once permitted, even encouraged, to drink alcohol by their doctors. In the nineteenth century, physicians prescribed champagne as a treatment for morning sickness, and brandy with soda as an appetite stimulant. Well into the twentieth century, alcohol was viewed as an all-purpose remedy that soothed pregnant women’s nerves and fortified them for the rigors of labor.”
Indeed, Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti told me his mother was advised to drink a glass with each meal when she was pregnant and then half a bottle a day post birth. It didn’t harm her children, nor her – she lived to 104! However, half a bottle of DRC a day could turn out to be quite expensive, with an average price of $13,695 per bottle.
Modern medicine has clearly moved on but no-one really knows how alcohol affects your unborn baby.
Erring on the side of caution, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends abstaining altogether, and labels on the back of many wine bottles tell you not to drink. In February, the English media reported that drinking alcohol excessively while pregnant could become a punishable crime.
There have been many studies published while I’ve been pregnant showing low to moderate-level drinking while pregnant has little effect on unborn children. There hasn’t been any research saying otherwise. In January, we were told that a bottle a month during pregnancy leads to better-behaved children and there have been plenty of others showing a little wine has no effect. Despite the positive results of the January study, which found that expectant mothers who drink in moderation produce children with better mental health than those who abstain, the co-author then said she still thought pregnant women should abstain completely.
So what are you supposed to do? Err on the side of caution – nine months isn’t a life sentence – but if I do have a few glasses of wine each week in the name of my work, I’m not going to apologize.