Alcohol Free Holidays for Baby and Me

Reprinted with permission from Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation, American Nurses Association.

It’s the holiday season. Time for family, friend, and co-worker get-togethers. Time for shopping wrapping, and giving gifts. Time for holiday traditions. Maybe there will be some traveling.  For many people, alcohol is a part of the holidays…a cup of eggnog at the company party, a glass of wine to relax after a long day of shopping, a new year’s toast with a glass of champagne. For some people, alcohol is used to relieve stress and although the holidays are hopefully enjoyable, they can also be stressful.

But wait…what if you are pregnant or could be pregnant? What if a close friend or family member is pregnant? We want to share some very important facts regarding alcohol use and pregnancy that many people, even nurses, may not know. Alcohol is a teratogen with the potential to disrupt fetal development throughout an entire pregnancy. Fetal alcohol exposure can cause a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Disabilities may manifest as developmental delays and impairments affecting attention, learning, memory, self-regulation, and social/adaptive skills. FASDs can be prevented when women abstain from alcohol throughout their entire pregnancy.

The American College of Nurse-MidwivesAmerican College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists American Academy of PediatricsAssociation of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal NursesCDC, and National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health, among other professional health associations, all agree there is no known safe amount, no safe time, and no safe type of alcohol use during pregnancy because we cannot predict how any mother/baby pair will react to the teratogen.

So, if you or someone for whom you care are or might be pregnant, here are a few tips to plan for an alcohol-free holiday season.

Stress management 

You just had a somewhat stressful day of shopping. The stores were crowded, you couldn’t find the perfect gift for that special someone, and your feet hurt. Now you are home and want to relax. Don’t reach for the wine glass and bottle of wine. Instead, take a relaxing bath with candles and soft music. Or curl up with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate. Watch a fun holiday movie – How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Elf, A Rugrats Chanukah, A Rugrats Kwanzaa, A Wonderful Life.  Are your feet still hurting? Get a foot massage.  Revisit last December’s Healthy Nurse/Healthy Nation blog – Overcome Holiday Overwhelm for more tips on stress management during this holiday season.

Holiday socializing 

It’s time for that New Year’s Eve party with special friends. You know that cocktails and champagne are traditionally included in the celebration. How do you ring in the new year? Plan ahead. Share some mocktail (non-alcoholic cocktail) recipes  with the host of the party. Bring a bottle of non-alcoholic champagne with you. Drink your non-alcoholic beverages in wine, cocktail, or champagne glasses. Volunteer to be the designated driver.

Support from others 

Get support from your significant other, friends, and family. You may want to share with them what you know about FASDs. The September 2018 blog September is FASD Awareness Month – Fetal Alcohol What? provides facts and helpful resources. Seek professional help if needed. If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant and cannot stop drinking, get help. Contact your healthcare provider, a local Alcoholics Anonymous, or local behavioral health treatment facility.

Spread the word 

Together we can make a difference if we all spread the word that FASDs can be prevented by not drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Have a frank discussion not only with your patients, but also  your daughters, sisters, friends, spouses, nieces, granddaughters– any loved one who is or might be pregnant. Tell them alcohol is a teratogen and there is no known safe amount, no safe time, and no safe type of alcohol use during pregnancy. Help them have an alcohol-free pregnancy.

This post was written by:

  • Beth Kelsey, EdD, APRN, WHNP-BC, FAANP, Director of Publications, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health
  • Elaine Germano, CNM, DrPH, FACNM, Special Projects Technical Advisor, American College of Nurse-Midwives
  • Marilyn Pierce-Bulger, APRN Owner/Manager, FASDx Services, LLC and Board of Directors member, Alaska Center for FASDs, Anchorage, AK.
  • Susan Rawlins, MS, WHNP-BC, Director of Education, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health
  • Catherine Ruhl, MS, CNM, Director, Women’s Health Programs, Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses

    With the support of the Collaborative for Alcohol Free Pregnancy: Partnering for Practice Change, the University of Alaska Center for Behavioral Health Research and Services.