Pissed and Pregnant

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Sociopolitical, Health-Medical Documentary narrated by Jenny Eclair and published by BBC in 2007 - English narration

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Recorded on 26 Jul 200, BBC Three
Part of Binge Britain Season

No one would give alcohol to a child, and yet every time a mother drinks her baby drinks too. One of society's biggest taboos is drinking while pregnant. Given that young women now are drinking more that any time every before, in terms of the harm they could be doing to their unborn children, Britain is sitting on a timebomb.

"You’re playing Russian Roulette with your baby if you drink when you’re pregnant", says Gloria Armistead, a campaigner, who warns women about the risks of drinking during pregnancy. Gloria knows too well what’s at stake. Her adopted son, Matthew, has FAS – Foetal Alcohol Syndrome – an incurable condition characterised by facial abnormalities, stunted growth and brain damage. "I know he’ll never be able to live unsupported," she says.

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome

FAS was identified more than 30 years ago, but it is still barely known in this country. When making decisions about their own and their baby’s health, women are left to filter an often confusing mixture of old wives' tales, tips from friends, headlines in the media and advice from GPs and the government.

Sarah from Bristol is seven months pregnant with her first child. "I’ve been given all different advice… I don’t think the experts know, that’s why we’re all left in the dark".

You’d think the government’s advice would be reliable: but it's not, according to top specialists. They claim that current government guidelines for drinking during pregnancy are putting unborn children at risk of crippling long-term damage. According to Dr Raja Mukherjee: "If you don’t drink, you will not have a child that’s affected by it – that’s the only guaranteed safe message."

No one would give alcohol to a child, and yet every time a mother drinks, her baby drinks too. It’s a scientific fact that booze makes women randy, but the problem is less that a woman might get pregnant while she’s out getting tanked up, but that by the time she finds out she pregnant, the damage may already have been done.

In Belfast, Professor Peter Hepper has investigated the effects of even low levels of alcohol on babies in the womb. The alcohol made the babies jump – as if someone had gone up behind them and gone boo! According to Professor Hepper: "We appear to have a very early indicator of damage to the brain".

Britain’s pregnant women are amongst the booziest in the world. Given that young women now are drinking more that any time every before, in terms of the harm they could be doing to their unborn children, Britain is sitting on a timebomb.

If we are to combat this, should drinking while pregnant become as socially unacceptable as smoking while pregnant? We tried out an experiment. We gave a skinny actress a false pregnancy belly and a bottle of wine and sent her staggering through London. Within moments someone had something to say…

The Pregnancy Police

In the USA there is talk of the ‘pregnancy police’. We travel to Wisconsin, a state where there are laws to force women into sobriety programmes if the state believes the mother is putting her un-born baby at risk by drinking. But do these kinds of laws pit mothers’ against their babies? Do they take away the rights of pregnant women? "I’m not an incubator," says pregnant Gemma from Croydon.

We try out an experiment to test if the American public agree with their government. We gave a local actress a false belly and a bottle of beer and took her to a town called Loyal, on parade day. To her face everyone was nice as pie, but behind her back it was a different story. As two locals admitted to us, "We said to the cops, can you arrest that woman for drinking and being pregnant, and they said, no, but if you get her name and address social services will take that baby the moment it is born."

If our pregnant women don’t get their boozing under control, we might find the pregnancy police come knocking at our door.

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Image: Pissed-and-Pregnant-Screen0.jpg

[edit] Technical Specs

GSpot v2.70a avi file details:

  • Filename.....: BBC.Pissed.and.Pregnant.2007.DVBC.XviD.MP3.ACP.avi
  • Filesize.....: 669,378,002 bytes
  • Runtime......: 56:14.920 (84373 frames)
  • Video Codec..: XviD ISO MPEG-4 (B-VOP//)
  • Video Bitrate: 1444 kbps
  • Aspect Ratio.: 624x352 (1.773)
  • Framerate....: 25.000 fps
  • Bitstream....: Unpacked
  • Audio Codec..: 0x0055 MPEG-1 Layer 3
  • Audio Bitrate: 127kbps 2ch VBR 48000Hz
  • Language.....: English

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