NOFAS Objects to Tone of ABC News Article

NOFAS objects to the tone of an ABC News article titled “Partum Shots: 9 Months of Diet Advice” about unwanted health advice that pregnant women receive.  The article highlights the frustration and annoyance some pregnant women feel about unsolicited health advice, saying “It’s as if the sight of a baby bump is a license for everyone from relatives to relative strangers to freely share their thoughts about what’s best for the baby.” The article implies that the health recommendations to completely abstain from alcohol due to the risk of birth defects is a kind of nagging, pestering message that annoys some pregnant women.  The article originally stated, incorrectly, that the position of ACOG, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is that wine is safe during pregnancy in moderation.  The full quote was:

“The same is true of coffee and wine. Although the position of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is that both beverages are safe in moderation, many pregnant women report getting dirty looks and having nasty remarks hurled in their direction if they so much as take a sip of either beverage.

NOFAS and ACOG sent messages to ABC News to correct the story.  The article has been revised and now reads:

“The same is true of coffee and wine. Although some obstetricians and gynecologists take the position that both beverages are safe in moderation, many pregnant women report getting dirty looks and having nasty remarks hurled in their direction if they so much as take a sip of either beverage. (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.)”

While this is an improvement since it accurately states the position of ACOG, NOFAS still objects to the tone of the article, which implies that it is acceptable for an OB/GYN to advise women that alcohol is safe in moderation.  ACOG, NOFAS, and 40 years of research make it clear that no amount of alcohol is without risk or known to be safe.  This is dangerous because a doctor telling a pregnant women that alcohol in moderation is safe is both not accurate and gives women license to drink alcohol in ways that can cause serious damage.  Women who use alcohol may hear this sort of message from their OB/GYN as a justification for drinking at risky levels.

The article includes this misguided quote that suggests alcohol consumption is safer than heroin use: “Yes, I got dirty looks when I had a little wine with dinner while I was pregnant,” said Grace Miastkowski, mother of two. “You would think I was shooting up heroin.”

In fact, prenatal alcohol exposure has been clearly proven to cause more harm to the developing baby than heroin use.  The Institute of Medicine says, “Of all the substances of abuse (including cocaine, heroin, and marijuana), alcohol produces by far the most serious neurobehavioral effects in the fetus.”

NOFAS objects that the article places such an emphasis on some pregnant women’s feelings of annoyance at receiving unsolicited health advice, a nuisance that pales in comparison to the devastating lifelong birth defects that can occur when women drink alcohol during pregnancy.  NOFAS appreciates the frustrations facing pregnant women, but urges coverage that focuses on the more pressing issue of the serious problems associated with alcohol use during pregnancy.