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Sinead Ryan: I had the odd tipple while pregnant. It was wrong then and it's wrong now

I MINDED my three-month- old nephew for an overnight last week. It was a huge privilege and so nice to have a babe in arms (temporarily) again. His parents had left food in the fridge for me, milk for him and temptingly, a wine bottle in the kitchen.

I resisted of course -- if I was going to be up during the night I wanted to be 100pc clear-headed. But imagine if along with having a glass myself, I had unscrewed the baby bottle and poured in some of the nice Chablis before feeding the baby.

Well, I'd probably be roundly and rightly remonstrated by his parents who would never trust me again. Of course it's a ridiculous prospect, but it's the image that came to mind when I read that new research among mums-to-be has found that a large number of them are continuing to drink regularly during pregnancy.

Not only that, but fewer than a quarter of those surveyed are staying off the fags or taking folic acid either. The study, carried out by Crumlin Children's Hospital and DIT found that 35pc of women still continue to drink alcohol during their pregnancy. And 21pc chose not to give up cigarettes.

Wine and beer were the most common tipples for the couldn't-care-less mums and social class had nothing to do with the results. In other words, we can't blame lack of education for the figures.

It means some of the very same middle class mums who will take the face off you when you suggest that they feed their baby a jar of ready made food instead of their own organically grown, eco-friendly, pureed by hand, vegetable dinner and who will breastfeed for months because it's "best for baby", have no compunction about downing wine during their pregnancies, even though it crosses the placenta and is imbibed by baby in just the same way as feeding it from a bottle.

Lack of education is often cited as the reason stupid people do stupid things, but unless you've been living on Mars you can't possibly not know that smoking and drinking while creating a new life inside you, is just plain wrong.

I don't have a perfect record on this, so I say it with not a little shame.

Although I've never smoked, and during my first pregnancy the very notion of alcohol made me gag, second time around I occasionally felt like a tipple. And, occasionally, I indulged, I'm sorry to say. It was wrong then and it still is.

So, if we all know this, and certainly the Government and HSE have spent huge sums of money telling us in advertising, education, pamphlets, ads, advice, services and support to inform mothers-to-be about these things then there is only one conclusion: women are making a deliberate choice to ignore it all.

To be honest, 99pc of babies will be just fine.

Probably.

Only a tiny number suffer from Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, from chronic alcoholics. But if we're addressing our nation's general love affair with the drug, perhaps we need to re-double our efforts with mums-to-be and make it socially unacceptable, even among friends, to indulge.

Will shame do the trick where Government has failed?