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Thursday 8 December 2016

Victoria White: Did having drinks in pregnancy lead to my miscarriage?

Irish women are more inclined to drink while pregnant than their counterparts in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, according to a new international analysis

Shocking, isn't it? Irish women are among the biggest drinkers in pregnancy in the world.

Some 82pc of us drink when we're pregnant. Worse than that, 45pc of us binge-drink in pregnancy.

Think of it. Young women pouring vodka and tonics down on top of the little bud of humanity which is trying to open inside them.

All this when the official health advice is not to drink at all during pregnancy, because the researchers still don't know how much alcohol is too much.

No-one is sure how much alcohol causes possible negative effects such as miscarriage, low birth weight, intellectual difficulties and catastrophic foetal alcohol syndrome.

This suggests it's different for different women and the only safe limit is no drink at all.

Which is the advice I followed, wasn't it? Staying off the sauce for three pregnancies, two years in total, wouldn't have been too difficult for well-educated, well-meaning me, right?

Wrong. I drank right through my pregnancies.

I'm not a binge-drinker, even though binge-drinking for a woman only means four drinks in two hours - which may raise some eyebrows.

I only drank a few glasses of beer and a few glasses of wine, one or two at a sitting at most.

Oh, and don't forget the champagne.

victoria-white-bio_BW.jpg
Victoria White

"Never refuse bubbles!" instructed my glamorous older friend, and who was I to disobey?

There were plenty of special occasions to celebrate during the two years I was pregnant and though I seriously doubt there was any real champagne drunk, plenty of chilled fizzy wine went down the hatch.

What was I doing? I suppose I was denying, that's what I was doing.

I decided early on that I would ignore the advice on alcohol because it seemed to be coming from stern Protestant countries like the US and Australia.

I was going to follow the Mediterranean diet. When it came to drink, in any case.

I didn't see the entire French nation walking around the foetal alcohol syndrome, now did I? So all those stern prohibitions from Puritan countries were just an attempt to stop girls having a bit of fun.

I felt great when I was pregnant. Radiant, relaxed and gorgeous. With a little glass of fizz in my hand to take the bare look off me.

We all survived. Well, apart from the baby which miscarried.

Miscarriage is common, particularly in older mothers, and was probably caused by a congenital abnormality.

But then again, I can't be sure of that. Did the glasses of wine tip the balance?

Nobody will ever know. The researchers say it's just not understood how alcohol affects babies in the womb, particularly in the crucial first three months when nearly every Irish woman who drinks at all is still drinking away.

They may not even know they're pregnant. Which might not be unconnected to the amount of drink they routinely consume.

"What did we do that night?" may be a question too far for some Irish women, let alone, "When did we do it?" or "When did I last have a period?"

God help us, it's enough to have anyone reaching for the bottle.

When what we really need is a bucket of ice.

We're not stupid. We love our babies as much as any other women.

But we're caught in a culture which can't eat a meal, have a chat or celebrate anything without resorting to alcohol.

A culture which has precious little respect for the serious responsibility which is carrying a child.

I don't know why I needed to keep gargling through my pregnancies but I know I look back at my behaviour with disbelief.

Let's start supporting pregnant women to lead us in kicking our national dependence on drink.

They're no different to the rest of the population of this country when it comes to having a problem with alcohol.

But they're the only ones who get a chance to poison two people at once.

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