Thinking about whether you should drink at a Super Bowl party this weekend?
This week the CDC shared new recommendations that women who are not using contraception should not drink at all. Their findings reported that 3 in 4 women who want to get pregnant as soon as possible do not stop drinking alcohol when they stop using birth control.
What does this mean for the trying to conceive (TTC) patient?
The recommendations for alcohol intake during pregnancy have certainly changed over the years. Believe it or not, back in the day, pregnant women were given intravenous alcohol infusions to stop preterm labor. Imagine that…women, pregnant and drunk, hooked up to IV’s. That was probably quite a sight. In the early 1980’s after more scientific research was done, it was determined that alcohol probably doesn’t stop preterm labor and can harm a baby. Thank goodness, right?
The official recommendation of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is that “no amount of alcohol consumption can be considered safe during pregnancy”. We know that large amounts of alcohol lead to what was previously called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, now referred to as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. But there is no scientific data advising how much is safe, so the recommendations advise that if you are pregnant, you should abstain from alcohol altogether. That’s great advice! Why risk it?
The CDC’s guidelines revolve around the fact that half of pregnancies are unintended - crazy. For the TTC women, this is hard to swallow. So, if you could be pregnant, you should not drink. This is similar to the guidelines that all women of reproductive age should be on folic acid.
These are my recommendations on alcohol: If you are TTC, and know when you ovulate because you are tracking it with ovulation predictor kits (OPK’s) or basal body temperatures (BBT’s) or even if you get symptoms such as pain or change in cervical mucus, then you know when you are ovulating, and can drink (safely) before you ovulate. I recommend that with ovulation, you abstain - you could be pregnant! A tiny embryo may be (hopefully is) growing and finding a nice place in your uterus to settle down and grow. Alcohol can disrupt this process. If you don’t know when and if you are ovulating, then don’t’ drink while trying to conceive, except maybe with your menstrual cycle.
We know that heavy drinking can decrease your chance of becoming pregnant, so I always recommend drinking in moderation. No driving and no binge drinking, which is defined as eight or more drinks in a week or more than three drinks in a sitting. Remember that one drink is a 5 oz glass of wine, a 12 oz beer or a one-ounce shot. Most fancy drinks, such as a martini or Manhattan, have several shots in them.
So, have a great weekend, enjoy the Super Bowl, and keep these recommendations in mind.
Most of all, have fun! (and Go Broncos!)