Family life

Drinking during pregnancy: New ads should make us squirm

A new LCBO campaign targeting drinking during pregnancy has received formal complaints. But maybe that's a good thing?

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LCBO advertisement.

When I was seven months pregnant with my son, it was my turn to host our families for Thanksgiving dinner. Leaving my husband in charge of the last-minute food prep, I drove to the liquor store to pick up a few bottles of wine to serve to our guests. The clerk at the checkout raised her eyebrows at me, and I shifted uncomfortably while she rang my order through. The brown paper bags she put the wine into had been decorated by Winnipeg school children—one side of the bag had crayon drawings with messages about the dangers of drinking and driving, while the other side had a print with the Manitoba Liquor Commission’s logo and the slogan “With Child, Without Alcohol.

Read more: The debate: Did you drink while pregnant?>

“These aren’t for me!” I wanted to shout. Instead, I gathered the wine and waddled out the door. I never stepped foot in a Manitoba Liquor Mart for the remainder of my pregnancy. The public scrutiny was just too uncomfortable.

That was eight years ago, and I still squirm thinking about the experience, which is why I can understand the complaint recently filed against the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and their “Love your body, love your baby” marketing campaign. The campaign, in partnership with FASWorld Canada, ran from August 25 to September 12 and focused on education about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Calling the campaign poster “offensive and wrong on so many levels,” Ontario resident and mom-of-two Laura Jamer contacted the LCBO with her thoughts on the campaign. The posters (a naked pregnant woman holding a sign with the word “love” on it, with the “O” cut out to expose her belly) were placed inside and outside of LCBO stores.

Read more: Mommy needs her wine: The message this sends to kids>

“I thought the message behind it was very condescending and that it implied if you have a glass of wine, it meant you didn’t love your body, and it meant you didn’t love your baby, which is really what I take issue with,” Jamer told Global News. “It’s the way that this is put forward.”

In her interview with Global News, Jamer cites research from the UK that suggests light drinking during pregnancy is perfectly safe—and possibly even improves the reading skills of boys and reduces behavioral problems. “There’s no research to show that light drinking is bad, yet there’s research to show that it’s good, and still there’s this campaign out there to make mothers feel guilty,” Jamer says in her interview.

I, for one, am highly skeptical about the benefits of drinking during pregnancy, especially with somewhat flawed research: Mothers in the UK study were asked at the end of their pregnancies about their alcohol consumption, and even the researchers admitted that having moms try to recall their drinking habits was a major shortcoming in the study.

Read more: Confessions of a merlot-loving mom>

The thing is, there is no specific amount of alcohol that is deemed safe to drink during pregnancy. Just because a glass of wine or two a day (the definition of light drinking in the study) hasn’t been proven to be bad, it doesn’t mean it’s good, either.

To quit drinking during pregnancy isn’t about being a model parent and making your body a temple—it’s about giving birth to the healthiest baby possible. FASD is 100 percent preventable, and if the message around prevention makes you uncomfortable and stops you in your tracks at the liquor store, then the campaign has done its job.

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.