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Academics Say Advising Women Not To Drink During Pregnancy Is ‘Sexist’

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Academics in the United Kingdom are urging the government to change its guideline against women drinking during pregnancy, arguing the rule against drinking could cause “needless anxiety” and perpetuate sexism.

The Telegraph reports experts at the University of Kent and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service claim government guidelines against drinking during pregnancy are “alarmist” and “stigmatizing.”

Ellie Lee, the director of the Centre of Parenting Culture Studies at the University of Kent, said the “exclusion of women from an ordinary activity on the basis of a precaution” was “sexist” toward women.

Although Lee allegedly said it was “impossible” to determine the level of alcohol consumption that is considered safe during pregnancy, she urged against advising women from abstaining from drinking in general because of the stigma associated with it.

“Public discourse has become very hostile and there is now an assumption that a pregnant woman holding a glass of wine is doing something absolutely wrong,” she said.

“Women are being accosted, spoken to and stared at in public,” she added. “People assume that just because you have had one drink, you’ve had a bottle of vodka for breakfast.”

Clare Murphy, the director of external affairs for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said there are consequences to “overstating evidence” or implying there's “certainty when there isn’t any.”

According to Murphy, being told not to drink during pregnancy can cause so much anxiety in women, they may consider abortion.

“Doing so can cause women needless anxiety and alarm — sometimes to the point that they consider ending an unplanned but not unwanted pregnancy,” Murphy said.

“But just as importantly,” she noted, “it assumes women cannot be trusted to understand risk and, when it comes to alcohol, the difference between low and heavy consumption.”

According to the Guardian, the National Health Service’s Start4Life website simply says, “What you drink, your baby drinks too. Play safe and cut out alcohol.”

Regardless of claims of “overstating” the risk of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, a spokesman for the Royal College of Midwives said it is still “best to avoid alcohol consumption.”

Janet Fyle, the policy advisor for the Royal College of Midwives, said, “This advice is not about policing pregnant women’s behavior, it is about giving them unbiased information and enabling them to make the choice that is right for them.”

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