Part One: Water
So, I’ve read a lot of great things about water birth. There’s some evidence that contact with water actually causes a woman’s cervix to dilate more rapidly during labor. It also eases labor pains and reduces the chance of perineal tears. (Parenthetically, I worked myself up in a lather the other day by reading about perineal tears. Some of my expectant-mother literature said that 70 percent of women will experience a tear during childbirth. There was a handy diagram showing a woman’s nether parts, with a dotted line between the vagina and the rectum, where I can apparently expect to be barbarically ripped open. Horrified, I called my mother, who confirmed that it’s very painful and takes ages to heal. I find this knowledge nightmarishly terrifying.)
Most hospitals have accepted the benefits of water during labor to the extent that they will commonly provide tubs or showers for laboring women, but none of our local hospitals will allow actual delivery in a tub. For that you pretty much have to have a home birth, or travel to a birthing center set up for water births. The problem is that in a non-hospital setting, there would be no anesthesiologist, and I really want to leave myself the option of painkillers. On the other hand, a lot of women say that laboring in the warm water provides effective pain relief.
So, I’m conflicted. Good thing I’ve got seven months left to make up my mind!
Part Two: Wine
Actress Rachel Weisz recently drew heaps of condemnation when, asked whether she thought it was OK for a pregnant woman to drink a glass of wine, she answered: “Personally I do. They say not in the first three months though, but I think that after that it’s fine. I mean in Europe they drink it.”
I know that, until about a year ago, I had the hazy impression that if even a sip of alcohol passed a pregnant woman’s lips, her baby would most likely be born with three heads. In fact, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is associated with babies whose mothers are accustomed to having five or more drinks a night.
As Weisz correctly pointed out, in countries like France and Italy, pregnant women routinely drink wine with their dinners. In the UK, pregnant women are advised to restrict themselves to one or two drinks a week. The rate of FAS in those countries is probably about the same as it is in the U.S, although it may be much lower.
Here in the States, most of the literature on alchohol consumption during pregnancy will say something like “because we know that large amounts of alcohol are harmful to a fetus, and because we are not sure what the ‘safe’ amount of alcohol consumption might be, you should abstain completely from drinking while pregnant.” Which sounds reasonable enough, until you flip to the section on caffeine consumption, which will say something like “Large amounts of caffeine can be harmful to a fetus, but most women who limit themselves to a cup of coffee a day seem to be fine, so you should just be careful to moderate your caffeine intake.”
Women who limit themselves to a glass of wine a day are fine, too. There’s an impressive body of literature compiled at this site supporting the conclusion that:
There is no scientific support for the type of widespread hysteria that permeates public discussion on fetal alcohol syndrome. Many people falsely believe that even a single drink during pregnancy can cause FAS. If this were true, the majority of the populations of dozens of countries around the world would suffer the effects of FAS! … In reality there is absolutely no evidence that light drinking, even on a daily basis, leads to fetal alcohol syndrome.
I haven’t had any desire for alcohol in the past couple months, due to my nausea. A few sips of champagne on New Year’s Eve was enough for me. However, I expect that when the morning sickness goes away, I’ll resume my habit of drinking a glass of wine with dinner. Not every night, and never more than one, but I’ll have one when I feel like it and I’ll drink it without a shred of guilt.