On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

During Pregnancy, Err on the Side of Safety

DEAR DR. BLONZ: Two weeks ago, I found out that I was six weeks pregnant with my first child. I had no idea that I was pregnant, as I typically have irregular periods. I have a good overall diet, but at the time I found out, I had been drinking a glass or two of wine about every other night with dinner. I am very concerned with whether or not this will affect my unborn child.

Several people have told me that they had a glass of wine every day during their pregnancy, and that nothing happened to their babies. And a friend of mine told me that her doctor said a glass of wine once in a while during pregnancy wouldn't do any harm. How would someone know if that were safe, considering "once in a while" could differ from person to person? -- D.T., Chicago

DEAR D.T.: First, let me offer my congratulations on your pregnancy. Unfortunately, the question of whether your wine consumption might have an effect on your child is impossible to answer with any degree of certainty. We simply don't know, and nobody is ever going to do a study in which they give pregnant women increasing levels of alcohol under controlled conditions to get a more definitive answer. What we do have is research data and statistical tables from which we can discern associations between the level of alcohol consumption and subsequent occurrence of problems with the developing children.

Please understand that you are not the first woman to find out that she was pregnant while engaging in a healthful lifestyle that includes a moderate consumption of wine. It's not an uncommon circumstance, so don't let it wrack you with guilt. A moderate alcohol intake (an average of about one drink per day, with a meal) does not appear to be associated with any harm to the health of the unborn child or the mother. Having the alcohol with food is important.

However, we need to acknowledge that an excess of alcohol is never good -- and, of course, alcohol is not essential for your health, nor the health of your child. Of all the times in life, pregnancy is not the time to take risks, even if they are small.

I recommend that you talk about these issues with your OB-GYN. Your question described your wine consumption as happening "at the time," so I am assuming that you have stopped for now. It is always best to err on the side of safety. I look forward to hearing from you once you have joined that wonderful world of motherhood.

Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.