In recent months there has been a great amount of debate regarding pregnancy, motherhood, and drinking. With new research revealing that even the smallest amounts of alcohol can be harmful to unborn babies, there has been a massive push for women to completely abstain from alcohol while pregnant– some extremists are pushing for women to avoid alcohol if they are capable of becoming pregnant and are not on birth control. In response to these limitations, some women’s groups are calling it an oppression of their rights and patronising.
I do understand how frustrating it must be to have all these restrictions placed upon you; being made to feel like nothing more than a fetal incubator is demeaning. However, if you are making the conscious decision to become a mother, wouldn’t you want to ensure your child is born as healthy as possible? Not drinking for nine months (or if you’re breastfeeding, longer) seems a small price to pay- doesn’t it?
It would seem there are women and mothers who don’t agree- despite evidence that supports the ties between alcohol consumption during pregnancy and birth defects, mental development issues, and behavioral problems. In listening to and reading all of the points made by both sides of this debate, I found myself morally aligning with the side which preached alcohol abstinence during pregnancy, but agreeing with points from the opposing side as well: women are not here simply to carry babies and give birth.
But then, I came across a bit of information that I hadn’t heard once in all the time that I followed the debate regarding alcohol and pregnancy: the father’s drinking is a factor, too.
Wait, what?! That completely changes the name of the game, doesn’t it? For so long, women have bared the brunt of the ‘fault’ when it comes to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders, and now evidence suggests that blame may be misplaced? How have I never heard about this before? This must be a new discovery, right?
Well, not so much: Korean researchers discovered the correlation between male alcohol consumption and developmental abnormalities in 2014.
Through experimentation which involved exposing male mice to alcohol, then allowing them to mate with females who had not been exposed to alcohol, results showed changes in the genes found in the mices’ sperm which did not exist in male specimens unexposed to alcohol. These changes were found in specific genes responsible for normal fetal development, linking the consumption of alcohol to the deformities scientists found in the fetuses conceived by the drunk mice.
So what does that mean for humans? Well, our genes behave in much the same ways as those of mice. We know that when a human baby is conceived, it receives half of its genetic matter from either parent. It goes to say that if alcohol consumption in males affects the genes responsible for normal fetal development, that means their drinking has an equal chance of affecting the unborn child.
A mother’s drinking during pregnancy poses a threat to the baby during development; a father’s drinking before consummation poses a threat to the way the baby develops. It seems to me that those are two sides to the same coin. Some may say the woman is still more responsible since her drinking habits affect the unborn child directly, but with over 400 conditions associated with FASD, the father’s contribution to the risk factors can be just as significant, if not more so.
What does that mean for the way we look at pregnancy? Will there be pleas for men to abstain from alcohol consumption so long as they have unprotected sex and may impregnate their partner? Probably not, seeing as this information was conveniently left out of the conversation surrounding alcohol and pregnancy.
In no way am I removing responsibility from expectant mothers or women who would like to have children. I’m doing nothing more than presenting the idea that we should take into consideration the father’s contribution- after all, she didn’t get herself pregnant.
Do you think men should also be held responsible for instances of FASDs? Comment below and tell us what you think!
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