A mother has expressed her fear that drinking during pregnancy could have affected her child’s developmental problems.
Natalie Battaglia, who has been a non-drinker since April 2020 and runs her own recipe blog, The Mindful Mocktail, talked about her pregnancies when she was on the Counterfeit drinks with a difference September podcast. During the conversation, she said that when she had her first child, she “cherished it like nothing else,” which included avoiding alcohol at all costs.
However, during her second pregnancy with her son, Noah, Battaglia acknowledged that she was much more relaxed. She then confessed that there were times when she drank wine along with it.
“There were a few times during my second pregnancy when I had a glass,” she said. “I remember there was one occasion where I drank two glasses and I definitely started to feel the effect of the alcohol.”
Battaglia explained that while the pregnancy was “healthy and normal” as she gave birth to a “beautiful boy”, by the time he was six months old he developed “some interesting mannerisms”. For example, she said he found it “difficult to straighten his arms” and would hold them at a “right angle.”
She said that when she realized that some of her son’s mannerisms weren’t “normal,” she took him to a pediatrician, who asked the mother if she had consumed alcohol during the pregnancy.
“I remember I just froze,” Battaglia said. “I wasn’t expecting that question and I lied. I was ashamed and thought, ‘Even if it was the alcohol, there’s nothing I can do about it now, so what’s the point of telling the truth?’”
Battaglia further recalled that when another doctor came in to examine her child, they told her they “suspected” he had cerebral palsy (CP), a group of conditions that affect a person’s ability to move.
The Melbourne-based mother spoke of how “devastated” she was when she heard this, before going to another doctor to seek another opinion. She then revealed that this doctor also asked her if she drank during her pregnancy.
However, she said she “lied again” because she “couldn’t bear” to get into how much she drank while pregnant. The pediatrician also agreed that Battaglia’s child could develop cerebral palsy.
While drinking during pregnancy is not a direct cause of this condition, CP is “due to damage to the developing brain during pregnancy, birth, or shortly after birth,” as stated on the official website of the Cerebral Palsy Alliance.
According to the National Health Service, drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause babies to develop another serious condition, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). This condition can cause physical problems with a baby’s joints, bones, and muscles.
After discussing the similarities between CP and FASD, she shared that even though she had Noah work with a physical therapist, she still wondered what his physical health might be in the future.
“All these questions I had. Will he be able to play with his little brother? Will he be able to walk?” she continued. “When a child is only a few months old, you don’t really know what their capabilities will be. And that was a really tough time in my life. And it made me drink more.”
She noted that while there’s no way to confirm whether her son’s mannerisms were due to her drinking alcohol, she still encouraged women to think carefully about what they drink when they’re pregnant.
“We’ll never really know if what happened to Noah was because of the alcohol, but we’ll never know if it wasn’t because of the alcohol,” Battaglia added. “And I think our role as mothers, pregnant women, is to reduce the risk of harm in any way we can.”
“And alcohol is a huge risk,” she added. “And a much greater risk than we initially thought. And thinking has now changed from being safe to really not safe.
She went on to explain that while her child was not officially diagnosed with CP, she said she was “lucky” to catch his developmental problems early because it allowed her to find different types of “interventions” to treat it.
Speak against Insidershe doubled down on her regrets about drinking while pregnant, adding, “From personal experience, I can assure you that a glass or two of wine during pregnancy isn’t worth the ‘what-if’.”
Battaglia also acknowledged how great a risk she was taking by consuming alcohol while pregnant in the first place.
“One of our jobs as a parent is to mitigate risk,” she said. “And I feel like I let my son down when I was pregnant by taking that risk.”
Research has shown that consuming alcohol, however much it is, can affect a child’s development. According to a new study, due to be presented next week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, scientists found that even small to moderate amounts of alcohol during pregnancy can alter a baby’s brain structure.
The independent has contacted Battaglia for comment.