Drinking While Pregnant

Dear Helena,

My wife and I have always loved to drink together: a glass of wine or two with dinner, a few beers with friends. Now she’s pregnant and off the booze. So here’s my question: Should the partner of a pregnant woman give up drinking as a gesture of support? And if it’s OK for me to keep drinking, is there a way I can do it that won’t bother her? Maybe I should confine my drinking to nights out with friends and stick to water at home? —Anxious Dad-to-Be

Dear Anxious Dad-to-Be,

You should only quit drinking if your pregnant partner is having trouble doing so, or expresses a need for you to stop to keep her company. Otherwise, you need not ditch the booze. That’s like gaining 40 pounds in solidarity: It’s no help to her. Don’t waste your energy on needless self-discipline; save it for cooking dinner or massaging her feet.

Though it’s not as hard as being pregnant, taking care of a pregnant partner is demanding work. A drink may help you relax. Malia Curran, a nutrition consultant in Boston, says it has helped her husband put up with her mood swings. “I haven’t been a raving witch, but I have been hormonal. Having a glass of wine or beer is a good way for him to settle down at the end of the day.”

Obviously, alcohol is not recommended for pregnant women, but some feel comfortable having the merest taste of someone else’s drink. David Port, coauthor of The Caveman’s Pregnancy Companion: A Survival Guide for Expectant Fathers, says: “They can remember what it tastes like without really imbibing.” Curran agrees: “I am excited when [my husband] gets a beer because I can take a sip or two. So if anything I encourage him.”

Just two rules. First, make sure your pregnant partner isn’t excluded. If you go out to a bar with her, keep her supplied with nonalcoholic drinks. Curran says, “I told my husband, ‘Whenever you go to the bar, please, no matter what is available, bring me back something: pineapple or grapefruit juice, or seltzer.’ Just him remembering to do that made me feel better.”

If you’re drinking at home, don’t just flop onto the couch with a six-pack. Make your partner a drink too. Port suggests a mocktail, perhaps a virgin version of her favorite drink. This helps her stay hydrated, a concern for pregnant women, and can be nutritious too, if it’s loaded with fruit. As Port’s book points out, “The clever caveman will be sure to set aside some of his mocktail creations for his own consumption, knowing full well he can add a little rum, vodka, or tequila, and change the ‘mock’ to ‘cock.’” Enjoying the same drink (even if one is virgin) is a nice bonding ritual.

The second rule: Don’t overdo it. If you’re drunk and your wife is stone-cold sober, you won’t be good company. And if you overindulge when you’re out, you’ll be on different wavelengths. You’ll be laughing raucously with your friends, while she’s looking at her watch and fantasizing about curling up with Häagen-Dazs. Plus, you’ll be useless the next day. It’s not much fun for her to paint the nursery by herself while you nurse your hangover.

Table Manners appears every Wednesday. Have a Table Manners question? Email Helena.