The Pregnancy Privilege


Full disclosure: I am a very pregnant person, so this post is coming from a specific viewpoint. However, this perspective and the observations I’ve made over the last few months wouldn’t have been possible in the absence of a pregnancy. So, sorry-not-sorry for waddling up to my pregnant-pedestal.

When you find out that you’re pregnant, you are immediately provided the list of “do not’s”…do not eat raw fish, do not do hot yoga, do not ride roller coasters, and of course, do not consume alcohol.

Throughout the last few months, I have become keenly aware of how much society has adapted to and embraced the medical directive of not consuming alcohol during pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that there is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy.

When I attend a social event in which alcohol is available, I, pregnant person, receive absolutely no pressure to consume alcohol. No one questions my decision to abstain, no one pesters me about why I’m not drinking, and no one encourages me to imbibe, even in the smallest quantity (none of that “it’s been a long day, just have one!”). In fact, people seem more than eager to ensure that I stay hydrated and nourished with some sort of non-alcoholic beverage, and even take the initiative to retrieve whatever socially acceptable elixir I have decided upon.

But let’s compare this directive to what the CDC says for the non-pregnant: “Drinking too much can harm your health.” Additionally, the CDC Dietary Guidelines do not recommend that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason.

Maybe it’s just my pregnancy brain, but these directives seem wildly similar.

So, why do I get a free pass to refuse alcohol without receiving questioning or harassment?

Why do we view a pregnant person choosing not to consume alcohol differently than someone who is not pregnant?

Why can’t someone who wishes to protect their health by choosing to not drink be afforded the same space and appreciation?

I’ve come to wonder if I’m experiencing some kind of pregnancy privilege. Here at NCADA, our school-based prevention programs include equipping young people to turn down offers of alcohol or other drugs, and/or how to navigate further pressure or encouragement to use substances. Heck, we promote similar advice for those adults seeking to reduce the amount of alcohol they consume, or those who wish to stop drinking completely.

My take-home message: the choice to protect one’s own health and body by avoiding alcohol is the same, irrespective of visible pregnancy. Anyone’s decision not to drink should be regarded with the same approval, reverence, and respect that we give to pregnant women. Just some food for thought.

One thing I know for sure…in a few months, I sure am going to miss having people willingly and enthusiastically fetch me delicious, fruit-adorned mocktails. Until then, I raise my Shirley Temple to you all!

Stacie Zellin is a Communications Specialist at NCADA.

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