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Motherhood, Menopause and Alcohol: Why I called quits on Mummy Wine Time

by | May 19, 2023 | Body Positive, Menopause, Women's Health

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I was a big believer in mummy wine time. Mummy wine time is a perfectly acceptable social movement that allows and encourages women to drink. And drink a lot and regularly.

In reflection, when I became a full-time mother, my drinking became more of a problem. I called it “a glass of coping at arsenic hour” – that time of day when I was giving my child an evening bath and feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. A glass or two of wine signified that my workday was almost over. It gave me a little pep to enjoy the short time between putting my baby/child/ren to bed and going to bed myself.

Is Mummy Wine Time really helping?

I didn’t think I had a problem with drinking. After all, I wasn’t drinking in the morning or getting blackout drunk. But the truth was, I was relying on alcohol to help me cope with the demands of motherhood. And my alcohol consumption was growing over the years. And sometimes, I think that my drinking was perhaps triggered by my first birth experience. Giving birth to my daughter is the closest I have ever been to death. It was an extended, messy, frightening butcher show. But it was not really talked about because I had a beautiful, healthy girl to be thankful for.

Anyway, it didn’t matter because my social media feed later confirmed that I had known with my experience with other mums early on – that drinking was a perfectly acceptable way to get through motherhood.

Detox to Retox

I even justified my evening drinking with a “detox to retox” strategy. I started each day with exercise and a green smoothie, but by the end of the day, I would reach for a bottle of wine.

Growing up in a drinking culture, I learned to associate alcohol with fun, relaxation, and socialising. And as a feminist, I felt empowered to drink like a man without shame or judgment.

When I got COVID in August 2022 and got knocked for 6, particularly neurologically, I knew I had to acknowledge that my drinking was not serving me. So I took a step back, looked at my drinking habits more objectively, and realised I needed to change. I wanted a break from waking up each morning, doing a guilty tally of what I had drunk the day before, and then working out if I had enough wine for that afternoon.

What alcohol really does deliver

Researching and writing education around women’s health, I felt like my drinking was compromising my authenticity as a champion for women’s health – when I knew exactly what this level of drinking was doing to my brain, my cancer risk and how it could impact on my ageing for the next third of my life.

Here are some specific risks of drinking for women:

  1. Increased risk of breast cancer: Studies have shown that even moderate alcohol consumption can increase the risk of breast cancer in women.
  2. Greater risk of liver disease: Women are more susceptible to liver damage from alcohol than men. This is because women’s bodies metabolise alcohol differently than men’s.
  3. Greater risk of heart disease: While moderate alcohol consumption may have some cardiovascular benefits, excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of heart disease in women.
  4. Increased risk of accidents and injuries: Women who drink heavily are at greater risk of accidents and injuries, including car accidents and falls.
  5. Increased risk of mental health problems: Alcohol can harm mental health. Women who drink heavily are at greater risk of depression and anxiety.

The Australian Government Department of Health recommends that for healthy men and women, no more than two standard drinks should be consumed on any day to reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury over a lifetime.

Have you seen how small a standard drink is?

And the reality is that alcohol had stopped giving me the high I loved. It was all the promise without the goods. I knew it wasn’t serving me – but it was hard to imagine a life without it.

Alcohol and menopause

And here is some other good news. Not.

Alcohol consumption can have specific effects on women going through menopause. Here are some insights about alcohol and menopause:

  1. Hot flashes: Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause, and alcohol consumption can trigger and intensify hot flashes. For women who already experience hot flashes, avoiding alcohol or limiting their consumption may help alleviate symptoms.
  2. Bone health: Menopause can decrease bone density, and excessive alcohol consumption can further increase the risk of osteoporosis. This is because alcohol interferes with the absorption of calcium, which is essential for maintaining healthy bones.
  3. Mood changes: Menopause can lead to mood changes such as irritability and depression, and alcohol can worsen these symptoms. For women who are experiencing mood changes, it may be helpful to limit alcohol consumption or avoid it altogether.
  4. Sleep problems: Menopause can lead to sleep problems, and alcohol consumption can disrupt sleep patterns and make it harder to fall asleep. For women experiencing sleep problems, avoiding alcohol or limiting their consumption may help improve sleep quality.
  5. Weight gain: Menopause can lead to weight gain, and alcohol consumption can contribute to this. Alcohol contains empty calories, and excessive alcohol consumption can lead to weight gain and make it harder to lose weight.

So alcohol was not serving me mentally and physically. Instead, it made it extremely difficult to lose weight and, perhaps most importantly, interrupted my sleep. This means mummy wine time was just a cyclic shit show for my body, mind and Long COVID recovery.

Making any change does not happen overnight. And if any of this has resonated with you – look out for my next blog, where I will write about how I changed from a drinker to a non-drinker.

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