Pregnant Women Are Anxious Enough Without Having Their Alcohol Consumption Put On Their Medical Record

'It instantly shames women, and would make many pregnant women feel guilty and paranoid for the whole of their pregnancy.'

Pregnant woman

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

Pregnant women may have their alcohol consumption recorded by medical professionals under new plans being considered by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice). The proposal has attracted tons of criticism from pregnancy rights advocates.

Intended to reduce the risk of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), the proposal has been drawn up as part of a consultation to cement guidelines on diagnosing and preventing the disorder. According to the FASD Network, it is the most common, non-genetic cause of learning disability in the UK with other symptoms including behavioural problems and poor impulse control.

However, the rate at which FASD impacts children in the UK is disputed. For a long time, studies showed it affected 2-5% of the population, but one study last year increased that rate to 17% and immediately attracting criticism for fearmongering. Research by the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) found that the UK has one of the highest reported rates of drinking in pregnancy, at just over 40%.

Whatever the incidence rate of FASD, pregnancy rights groups argue that recording a pregnant womam's alcohol consumption is an invasion of privacy.

‘Women do not lose their right to medical confidentiality simply because they are pregnant,’ Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said in a statement. ‘I think it’s a really quite shocking state of affairs, and we are very surprised that this is the path that Nice have gone down. What we’ve ended up doing is creating this climate in pregnancy which leads to real heightened anxiety, stress, worry and huge maternal guilt, particularly if something goes wrong.’

And when we spoke to those who are pregnant or have had children, they agreed. ‘I didn’t drink at all when I was pregnant with my first child three years ago – and had given up drinking several months before as I was desperate to conceive,’ Emily, 39, who is currently pregnant with her second child, said. ‘I wasn’t planning to get pregnant again, so this was a pleasant surprise. I confessed to my GP that I had been boozing before I knew I was pregnant – nothing too heavy; perhaps only a glass or two of wine three or four times a week – and she seemed fine about it. I mean, most of the world is pissed when they conceive!

I often had a glass of wine or two over the course of a week.

‘The idea that this will now go on your medical records is terrifying – it instantly shames women, and would also make many pregnant women feel guilty and paranoid for the whole of their pregnancy, which is an anxious period at the best of times.’

Rebecca, 35, who gave birth last year is also concerned about the guilt implication. ‘I found out I was pregnant on the 2nd January, having got absolutely trashed on New Year’s Eve,’ she said. ‘I always assumed I’d “know” I was pregnant but I really didn’t have a clue. After that I didn’t drink at all for the first 12 weeks, but celebrated my 12-week scan with a glass of Prosecco over lunch. After that I often had a glass of wine or two over the course of a week - your body definitely tells you if it’s not right, and sometimes, after a stressful day at work it was just the thing.

‘There are so many things you can’t do when you’re pregnant, and we’re so cautious about everything but a glass of wine just didn’t seem like a big risk compared to - say - the risk of catching salmonella from raw eggs,’ she continued. ‘And frankly anything that helps you make you feel better in the endlessly exhausting moments of pregnancy is worth it in my book. But the idea that this could have gone on my son’s medical notes, as though I’d been indulging in some sort of subversive behaviour in pregnancy makes me feel ill.’

Read More:

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Who Should We Be Listening To When It Comes To Advice About Drinking During Pregnancy?

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