When Did The Medical Community First Conclude That Drinking While Pregnant Is Bad?

Was it known/suspected in ancient times that pregnant women shouldn’t drink alcohol?

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome wasn’t fully identified until 1973. There were some earlier concerns about alcohol consumption by parents during the Temperance Movement but it’s not clear if it was based on any real evidence.

In the 1960’s in the US, pregnant women were still being encouraged to “relax” with a glass of wine. They also smoked. Cite: My mother’s report.

I think you can still find doctors okaying (if not recommending) an occasional glass of wine.

My mother reports that her doctor listed drinking, smoking, and coffee and told her to give one up. She gave up coffee, although she wasn’t a heavy drinker. My four brothers and I (averaging 6’2") blame her habits for none of us making the NBA.

My oldest sister worried in the early 70s. Not because she thought drinking would hurt the baby. She thought she was unstable and she might fall and hurt herself. She, nonetheless kept drinking right up til birth. All kids are kinda okay. They’re all drunks. They started early, I guess. I always knew it. I think.

I know my wife drank a bottle of beer or a glass of wine from time to time while pregnant. That was in the 60s and 70s. I don’t think anyone gave it a thought at the time.

Until very recently, people in Europe drank beer, cider, and mead (depending upon location) because the water wasn’t safe to drink.

A common myth it seems:

Or search for “the great medieval water myth”

Edit: I admit I was a subscriber to the myth and only looked it up to dispute the “until very recently” in the post. I remember drinking water as a child back in the 1950s

Also encouraged in this decade (a single glass of wine, not smoking or drinking to excess). Cite: multiple doctors.

It’s probably been known for as long as there have been alcoholic drinks that it’s not particularly healthy to get stinking drunk too often, and my suspicion is that even in ancient times, or as far back as the '50s, however you want to go, there were medical advisors that probably suggested pregnant women not imbibe indiscreetly. I am thinking of at least one novel, set in the 1940s but written in the early '50s, where “no drinking no smoking ever” was laid onto a character who said she would go crazy, but for the sake of the baby she did it.

It is pretty hilarious to look at a pregnancy book from the late 1940s though. Pregnant women were advised to exercise moderately but give up such exertions as tennis and horseback riding. And no swimming!* No! Also, no driving.* But alcohol was okay in moderation (according to the Better Homes & Gardens pregnancy guide) and cigarette smoking was also okay. But watch that exercise! Also don’t gain more than 20 pounds. Better to smoke than to gain more than 20 pounds.

And now when pregnant you can’t even eat feta cheese (and a bunch of other things; fortunately I don’t have to know this).

*Maybe they thought they’d get an infection in the pool or swallow some toxic algae? Maybe driving was harder? I imagine it was harder if you didn’t have power steering, but not that much harder!

In the 1940s there were no seat belts and no collapsing steering columns so even in a mild collision the driver was likely get hit in the belly by the steering wheel, I expect that is why pregnant women were advised not to drive

Sure can.

My sister was a neo-natal nurse and drank while she was pregnant (she’s still a nurse but no longer deals with babies directly). To be clear it was maybe one or two glasses of white wine a week with ice in it to water it down a bit but she did drink. She was crystal clear, when asked, that a little bit of alcohol, in moderation, was safe and that she had checked. “Moderation” being the key here. I took her word for it…I honestly think she researched it and discussed it with her doctor.

She had three kids and they are all healthy and normal. Anecdotal I know but I think the point being is alcohol is dangerous by degree. It is not like any alcohol consumption is bad and will mutate the baby. That said best to err on the side of being safe. My sister only barely drank alcohol during her pregnancies (she allowed herself that one glass a week and maybe a second on special occasions).

All that said this is the internet…don’t listen to me. Check with your doctor and follow your doctor’s advice, not mine.

The problem here is: how much is too much. It’s not morally appropriate to set up a proper clinical trial to test how much booze is too much in pregnancy. And self-reporting isn’t accurate enough in this case, since it’s socially unacceptable to drink while pregnant.

So, because doctors don’t know a safe upper level, they’re reticent to recommend a safe lower level too. Current recommendations from American Congress of Gynecologists is for pregnant women not to drink any alcohol, and that even “moderate” alcohol use can increase the risk of birth defects.

Yup. It is a cover-their-ass sort of thing. They do not know a limit so they set the limit to zero. No surprise there. Anything else could open them to liability.

these days they tell a expectant mother not to clean the cats litter box…….

This is actually a real thing.

Toxoplasmosis can be transmitted via cat poop and can be dangerous to a fetus.

A pregnant person should avoid dealing with cat litter boxes and if she has to then should take precautions doing so (e.g. wear rubber gloves when cleaning the cat box).

Margaret Mitchell must have known some woman who drank during her pregnancy and gave birth to a child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She describes it perfectly in Gone With The Wind: When Scarlett is pregnant with her second child, she drinks alcohol every night and gies birth to Ella, a child with no attention span who is described as “scatterbrained.”

Rightly or wrongly, swimming pools were associated with polio. Among other possible things.

Heh! And even before then.

Ignorance fought!