IS binge-drinking during pregnancy really abuse by umbilical cord? Professor Barry Carpenter said this and added that the country was facing an unprecedented rise in the number of children born with learning disabilities thanks to binge drinking.
Prof Carpenter made the comments at a Royal College of Nursing summit. He added it was mainly women age 19 to 24 who weren’t planning to get pregnant and continued to drink through the first three months of pregnancy that were leading this rise.
The realities of the effects of binge drinking on the unborn child are very real.
In the first three months, when a baby’s vital organs, including the brain, are developing alcohol makes a big impact.
Prof Carpenter, the national director for educational special needs, said that up to one in 100 babies is born with foetal alcohol syndrome disorder – FASD – caused by alcohol in the womb.
This has associated problems like attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity and poor co-ordination.
It is for these reasons he called drinking during pregnancy “abuse by umbilical cord”.
There are a few issues here, one being about contraception, bearing in mind most of these pregnancies are unplanned.
But if a woman decides to go ahead with a pregnancy, information about FASD should be passed on to expectant mums straight away, by the midwife.
Pictures of babies with FASD are shocking. A friend of mine is a university lecturer on its effects and, pre-pregnancy, she showed me pictures of these babies which are dreadful.
I chose to completely abstain from alcohol during my pregnancy. Why take any risk?
And I’m sure many mums-to-be who are shown these pictures would cease to think that drinking during pregnancy is fine.
If they have all the information, and continue to drink, then I don’t think “abuse by umbilical cord”, is too strong a phrase.
Currently an unborn child has no legal rights, so the issue of drinking in pregnancy is a personal ethical choice.
But if you make the decision to continue with a pregnancy then you have moved into the role of a mother looking after your child.
A child which has no choice but to live in your body and take its nourishment from you. If you then decide to drink you are making a decision to damage your child’s chances in life.
You’ll not only be putting them at risk of FASD but also of organ deformities, learning difficulties and developmental delays, to name but a few.
One of the definitions of abuse, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is to “use or treat in such a way as to cause damage or harm,” and I don’t think there’s any doubt as to how harmful alcohol can be, taken in excess.
Current guidelines for pregnancy differ from no alcohol to four units a week. But why take any risk?
Surely giving up a glass of wine for nine months is a tiny price to pay for your baby’s health and their chance of a decent life?
Social life sacrifices for a working mum
MAKING the choice to be a stay-at- home mum isn’t an easy one.
You can miss out on a lot by not working, for example the self-esteem and social interaction work brings.
And boredom can be a big feature, especially if you live without friends and family close by.
But, by virtue of spending more time with your little one, if you have willing babysitters, you also have more freedom.
As a working mum, I realised this last week. My friends, many who have decamped to London, have been urging me to visit them recently.
I finally relented and promised to book a weekend off to go down and visit them in August.
But that’s all changed. Last week, I went to a gig with a friend.
It started at 7.30pm so I knew I was risking not being able to put 20-month-old Otis to bed before I had to leave. He likes his bedtime routine, and the time I spend settling him to sleep. So I was worried he’d be upset without me there, and that’s what happened.
My husband said that, for an hour, while he was trying to settle him, he kept on calling out “Mama”.
The next day he wouldn’t look at me for half an hour when I came to pick him up from his grandma’s.
The message was clear – I work all day so when my time off comes I have to devote it to him.
I can look at my neighbour, a full-time mum, and envy her being able to go off in the evening and do exercise classes and courses.
But then I remind myself she’s with her daughter the vast majority of the time. Otis gets me weekends, holidays and half a day on a Monday. And to be happy he needs all of me then.
The pre-mummy, social me is going to have to wait a while yet before she can surface again.
Even then, she’ll be much changed, and for the better.
Five things to do with your family this weekend
1. THE Gruffalo at Theatre Royal, Newcastle, Thursday-Saturday: A magical musical adaptation of the best-selling picture book. Tickets cost £11 for showings at 10.30am, 12.30am and 2.30pm, 08448 112 121 or visit www.theatreroyal.co.uk
2. Small worlds at ARC Stockton, Saturday: One day, one place, six interweaving stories taking place. What could a small green wriggly thing, a bug, a goose, a fox cub, a cat and a six-year-old girl have in common? An unforgettable piece of visual theatre showing at 11am, 2pm and 4pm. Tickets cost £6 or £20, 01642 525199, www.arconline.co.uk
3. Alice in Wonderland at Sunderland Empire, Saturday: Disney’s classic animated movie is brought to magical life at Sunderland Empire. Showings at 2pm and 7pm, tickets cost £12.50, 08448 472 499, www.sunderlandempire.org.uk
4. Build It! At Monkwearmouth Station Museum, Sunderland: Since the 19th Century, building and construction toys have been produced to stimulate and develop imagination and skills in children. Drop in this Saturday, between 11am and 4pm, free after paying normal admission, 0191 567 7075, www.twmuseums.org.uk/monkwearmouth
5. Roman Secrets at Chesters Fort, Saturday and Sunday: Chesters Fort at Hadrian’s Wall is giving you the chance to discover the amazing secrets of the museum. Cost £4.80, concession £4.10 and child £2.40, 01434 681379, www.hadrians-wall.org
Five suncreams for children
1. Sunsense toddler milk, £7.25 for 50ml, SPF 50: A roll-on applicator means it is easy to use on young children. From John Lewis and chemists.
2. Soltan Once Kids Waterplay, £13.29 for 150ml, SPF 50+: This cream gives up to three hours’ water resistance. From Boots.
3. Marks & Spencer suncare face and body spray for all the family, £9.50 for 200ml, SPF 30: From Marks & Spencer branches in the region.
4. Nivea Sun Kids Swim & Play, £12.89 for 150ml, available in SPF 30 & SPF 50+: Lasts far longer than a standard water-resistant suncream. From chemists across the region.
5. Soltan Baby Moisturising Suncare Lotion, £6.69 for 75ml, SPF 50+: A gentle formula for sensitive baby skin. From Boots.