Knowing Your Pregnancy Symptoms (and Avoiding Booze) Could Be Best for Baby

Being aware of pregnancy symptoms could help you minimize the risks of alcohol exposure to your fetus—especially if you're one of the three million moms-to-be with an unexpected pregnancy each year.

Drinking While Pregnant Bashutskyy/Shutterstock
Pregnancy. I remember I had been looking forward to that first sip of a vacation margarita when my husband and I flew to Florida for a weekend sans kids. We were sitting at the little café on the beach, toasting to the 48 hours ahead of us, when I gagged. The drink made my stomach roll, and that's when I knew: I was pregnant with baby #3.

The subsequent pregnancy test I took confirmed my suspicion. Since we weren't actively "trying," I hadn't paid a lick of attention to the days since my last period. In fact, if I hadn't had the experience of previous pregnancies my queasiness might not have alarmed me. I might've shrugged the physical reaction off as stress.

But according to a new study from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, being "pregnancy aware" could be more effective than telling women to abstain completely from alcohol while trying to conceive. For starters, nearly half of the 6.1 million annual pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. That means, telling a woman to "skip the red wine at dinner" if she's trying to have a baby isn't helpful because, um, she wasn't trying to get pregnant.

The researchers surveyed more than 5,000 women and found that the number of women who continued to have some alcohol while trying to conceive versus those who drank and unintentionally conceived was virtually the same: 55 percent and 56 percent. That seems fair, especially when you factor in that only about 30 percent of couples get pregnant within the first cycle of trying, with the majority of couples taking up to six cycles.

What matters is that whether women were trying to have a baby or not, they stopped or decreased drinking after realizing they were pregnant. And that's a good thing. And your first realization that you're pregnant may not be the queasy feeling I had when I tasted alcohol. Other top early signs of pregnancy: Tender, swollen breasts, needing to pee sooo much more frequently, exhaustion, or your nose becoming suddenly sensitive to the smells around you. Save yourself stress and be on the lookout for all these things if there's a chance you could be pregnant.

Mindy Walker is the executive editor at Fit Pregnancy and Baby and a mom of three daughters. Follow her on Instagram @mindyberrywalker.