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Does Wine Culture Pose Health Risks to Moms?

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University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
Three women drinking white wine on a sunny day

Wine culture encourages drinking as a way for women to connect and let off steam from the stresses of motherhood. Many women feel pressure to be an ideal parent or caregiver. As the responsibilities of raising a family add up, it’s no wonder many seek relief.

But as alcohol consumption continues to rise, some women may be flirting with danger.

Understand the Risks of Alcohol

“The Dietary Guidelines for Americans define moderate drinking as no more than one drink per day for women and two for men,” says Jamie Huckins-Barker, PhD, clinical health psychologist and women’s behavioral health specialists at University Hospitals “This definition is only for healthy adults; people with some health conditions may have lower recommended limits.”

Women whose drinking exceeds one drink per day might face a variety of risks, including:

  • Breastfeeding. Alcohol stays in breast milk for at least two to three hours. Over time, it could decrease your milk supply or affect your baby’s sleep and development.
  • Childcare. Alcohol may impair your judgment and your ability to tend to infants and young children.
  • Youth drinking. The harms may extend past early childhood. Adults who regularly drink alcohol tend to pass on the habit to their children by modeling the behavior.
  • Your health. Alcohol contributes to accidents, weight gain and chronic disease. With heavy drinking on the rise, doctors have noted more deaths from alcohol-associated liver disease among people in their 20s and 30s.

For some people, drinking interferes with their work, relationships, or how they think and feel. If you have any of these thoughts about drinking, you may have a problem with alcohol:

  • You know it’s harmful in some ways, but you look forward to drinking anyway.
  • You feel guilty about drinking.
  • You think you might need to drink less.

Your Consumption, Your Choice

Many women fear they’ll miss out on socializing and connecting with others if they curtail their drinking. Fortunately, you don’t have to let social pressures dictate your drinking habits. You can:

  • Set your own limits. Identify a drink limit before you go out. Keep track of what you drink to stay within it. Tell a friend to help you stay accountable; you don’t have to do it on your own.
  • Identify an alternative. Non-alcoholic cocktails are increasing in popularity. They are more widely available, taste good and often look just like alcohol-infused versions.
  • Practice your “no.” You can’t always avoid alcohol-soaked occasions. But you can decide how you’ll refuse boozy offers. A clear and firm “no thanks” usually works.

Find Other Ways to Unwind

It’s important for all women – especially those caring for others – to prioritize moments of self-care. When you’re struggling, take a deep breath and run through this checklist:

  • When was the last time you exercised? Physical activity, even just a couple minutes of it, is a great stress buster.
  • Are you making your mental health a priority? Schedule time off from caretaking and multi-tasking in your routine, in the form of a hobby, time outdoors, relaxing exercise, journaling or something else that rejuvenates you. These can be short breaks or longer indulgences like a warm bath or night out with friends. What matters is giving yourself the time.
  • Do you need help? If you try to cut back or quit and can’t, seek help. Whether it’s sadness you can’t shake or a persistent need to drink, talk with your healthcare provider to find the best treatment. Medications and/or behavioral treatments may work for you.

Related Links

The board-certified psychiatrists and licensed psychologists at University Hospitals specialize in general and family psychiatry. Learn more.

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