IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Drinking when pregnant: New NYC guidelines tell servers not to discriminate

The New York City Commission on Human Rights released guidelines that prohibit bartenders from refusing to serve alcohol to pregnant women.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

The New York City Commission on Human Rights has issued a new set of guidelines that address discrimination against pregnant women, and recommend that moms-to-be who would like to have a glass of chardonnay at happy hour should not be turned away by a bartender.

Pregnant woman drinking glass of wine
The policy specifically addresses a restaurant’s role in policing food and drinks thought to be no-no’s during pregnancy, citing “a restaurant policy that prohibits staff from serving pregnant individuals raw fish or alcohol” as a violation of the law.Shutterstock

“Any policy that singles out pregnant individuals is unlawful,” the guidelines, released on May 6, state. “Unlawful policies include those that categorically exclude pregnant workers or workers who are capable of becoming pregnant from specific job categories or positions, deny entrance to pregnant individuals to certain public accommodations, or refuse to serve certain food or drinks to pregnant individuals or individuals perceived to be pregnant.”

The policy goes on to specifically address a restaurant’s role in policing food and drinks thought to be no-no’s during pregnancy, citing “a restaurant policy that prohibits staff from serving pregnant individuals raw fish or alcohol” as a violation of the law.

Bianca Jamotte, creator of YouTube channel Real Mommy Confessions, says while she did not consume alcohol while pregnant, she understands the need for the guidelines.

“I miscarried with my first pregnancy, so when I got pregnant with my daughter I was extra careful about everything. Except for the whole ‘one cup of coffee’ thing because I need at least two to function in society,” Jamotte told TODAY Parents. “I've never seen a sushi restaurant refuse to serve a pregnant woman, or a grocery store refuse to sell soft cheese, so ordering wine shouldn't be any different.”

Drinking and pregnancy warning notice
Human Rights Commission officials say they're not saying that expectant mothers should drink, but that such health decisions are up to the woman, not a bartender.Richard Drew / AP

Nicole Sutton, a mom of three, says she drank wine occasionally at the end of each of her pregnancies, as once vital organs were formed and the baby was nearing the end of gestation, she didn’t see the harm. Still, Sutton was once faced with the opinions of a server when she ordered wine on vacation while pregnant.

“I was about 32 weeks and my husband and I took a baby moon to South Beach. I asked for a glass of wine and the waiter said, ‘Are you sure?’ and gave me a stare down,” said Sutton. “I said, ‘Doesn't it look like I need one? Give me the flipping wine!’”

“There is nothing wrong with it,” Sutton continued. “As long as you’re not doing keg stands at a frat party, I think you are fine.”

According to the CDC, 10 percent of pregnant women drink alcohol. In a press release addressing the dangers of alcohol during pregnancy, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) maintains that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.

“Maternal alcohol use is the leading known cause of mental retardation and is a preventable cause of birth defects…consuming alcohol during pregnancy also increases the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, and stillbirth,” the ACOG’s statement reads. “Women should avoid alcohol entirely while pregnant or trying to conceive because damage can occur in the earliest weeks of pregnancy, even before a woman knows that she is pregnant.”

Talia Gates, an Alabama OB-GYN, says while she counsels her patients on the CDC’s guidelines and cannot guarantee that a glass of wine will not cause harm to a fetus, she generally advises that an occasional glass of wine during pregnancy is fine.

“My thoughts are that one glass of wine or beer after the first trimester has not shown to be harmful, and I tell my patients that,” said Gates. “As far as the law, I believe that it is a women's choice to make an educated decision. If this is the law for alcohol, there certainly should be a law on women purchasing cigarettes as those are also proven to be harmful to pregnancy and to young children.”