Pregnancy & Birth Clubs <
04/12/2014 at 12:56
We'd love to know what you think about drinking in pregnancy - and whether women who ignore medical advice and drink so much that they harm their baby should be criminalised.
Today, the Court of Appeal has rejected a case brought by an English local authority who were seeking compensation for a girl who'd been born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome as a direct result of her mother's heavy alcohol consumption while she was pregnant.
Women's charities have welcome the ruling, saying that women should be able to make their own decisions about their pregnancies – and that any ruling which found that drinking while pregnant was a ‘crime of violence’ could pave the way to the criminalisation of pregnant women’s behaviour.
They say that the number of women who drink this much in pregnancy are rare – and that these women need help with their problem, rather than criminalisation.
But then, say those on the other side, who's going to pick up the bill for the baby's medical problems? And don't we need a stronger deterrent, like the threat of legal action, to make women stop drinking too much in pregnancy?
What do you think? We'd really love to know.
Please do tell us by posting your comments on this thread.
04/12/2014 at 15:49
That's easy - heavy, moderated, occasional, low alcohol, spritzer ?? No. nought, zero, none. I love my wine but when expecting it was zero for 9 months, a small price to pay for peace of mind surely, there were enough other things to think about anyway.
05/12/2014 at 01:52
I too thoroughly enjoy my wine, but when it came to my pregnancy I took the zero tolerance approach. I would never have forgiven myself if something happened, even if it wasn't alcohol related.
It's a personal choice as I would rather completely rule out that risk then take the chance, no matter how small, that drinking would cause a problem.
06/12/2014 at 04:00
I think this is such a tricky & extremely complex matter that there will never be a clear cut decision!.
The reason why the womans behaviour would have to have been 'criminalised' in this case is that the Local Aurhority will have been requesting 'criminal injuries compensation' for the child... Which is a very specific & regulated set of funds from the government to financially support victims of violent crimes in order to help them through any issues they may have as a result.
Now if you look at it from the child's point of view.... That child has been to all intents & purposes subjected to significant physical harm as a direct result of the mother's alcohol consumption.... Had the child been born & this level of harm inflicted... It would without a doubt be classed as abuse & very likely the CPS would have a case to prosecute for assault or even so ething higher like greivous bodily harm. The 'debate' therefore from this point of view then leads to at what point does a foetus become a 'life'.... Now this is where the courts / government are verging on hypocracy... There are strict abortion laws in place limiting the timeframe in which a woman can have a termination... Mainly because after said point gestation the child could potentially survive outside the womb & is therefore considered (in the governments eyes) to be a 'life'... So having said that... How can they apply different logic to the case of pre-natal substance abuse causing irreversible harm to a 'life'....
but... Having worked with many families who struggle with substance misuse, mental health, domestic violence, learning disabilities etc I am all to aware of how easy it is for us fortunate ones to sit back & say that the mother is bad / that drinking is absolutely a 100% choice that she is making the decision regardless of the needs of her unborn child. What I do know is that many people have addictions to the point where giving up cold turkey (even if they know the rosks to their child) is an extremely difficult task both emotionally & physically (withdrawal from a serious addiction can be an extremely painful process). I also know that many people 'self-medicate' with drugs or alcohol to help them cope with past or present traumas & that without the 'self-medication' they are actually even less able to function in daily life. Then there are those people who due to mental health needs or learning disabilities really do not understand or appreciate the potential harm of alcohol use during pregnancy & therefore their uninformed decision is exactly that... It is not an intentional choice to harm their child.
and so we're back to square 1!!!! I think the courts are right that there is a very very fine line that they need to tread here & public opinion towards those in need of suppory not villification will be very much swayed by the outcome of such cases.
The child's needs will be met either way & the government will end up footing the bill either way so what it really boils down to is whether the mother should be 'punished' for what she has done.
very intersting debate! Thanks for starting this up Helen....it's been a while since I've got the Social Work Brain cogs turning (been out of practice for a few years) :)
06/12/2014 at 23:17
Thanks, SW2 - and thank you, too, for your hugely interesting points.
It's a tough one, isn't it? No one wants a baby to be harmed but no one wants to criminalise mums-to-be who may be having all sorts of problems - surely they need supporting, not arresting?
And, obviously, if you can be a criminal for drinking in pregnancy, what else can you be 'guilty' of in pregnancy? Forgetting to take folic acid? Eating runny eggs? Where would it stop?
08/12/2014 at 21:02
The question is, Why would you want to drink while pregnant?
why would you want to harm your baby's devlopment?
i think that its ridiculous ive witnessed someone first hand whos been pregnant and sulked because she forgot her ID at a party that was held in a bar so they would serve her... !!! sulked !!! a pregnant lady sulked because she could drink?? why do these women deserve to become mums ? x
09/12/2014 at 21:29
I think each to their own. I dont think the above comment is fair if I'm honest, especially after reading sw2 post who clearly has a lot of experience in this field. I think it's very wrong to say women who drink in pregnancy don't deserve to have a baby. I was tee total with my first. With my 2nd I probably had max 10 drinks throughout the 9 months either at social gatherings or on holiday (Shandy on holiday, half a pint at a birthday do, bucks fizz at Xmas etc). Completely my choice and no one has the right to label or judge me for it. Completely ridiculous. I feel desperately sorry for those who drink uncontrollably and to excess during pregnancy and cause harm to their babies. They need help not prosecution.
15/03/2015 at 11:36
i agree with the notion that a pregnant woman should be in charge of what she does and does not do while pregnant. if there is a concern (alcohol, drugs or otherwise) then compassion and support (not judgement) are what are most useful.
18/03/2015 at 15:19
If we are talking about the level of drinking where harm can be caused, we are talking about heavy drinking, not the odd glass of fizz at a wedding. This to me indicates that there would be an emotional or addiction problem which deserves help not punishment.
Its sad that people rush to judgement rather than to compassion and support. I want to teach my child these empathy skills so I need to be the first to show them myself.
No, I wouldn't drink to excess in my pregnancy, but then I do not suffer (and yes, it is suffer, not choose) from an addiction or other emotional disorder.
19/03/2015 at 05:07
where would we draw the line? how much would a pregnant woman have to be drinking before she was committing a crime? even researchers into this area are in the dark about a safe level.
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