CANFASD: What is a #WINEMOM and Why Should We Talk About It?

Becoming a mother is a transitional period in a woman’s life involving a number of personal, social, and biological changes. However, researchers have found that our view of motherhood is influenced by our social and cultural norms. Motherhood is performative, meaning that women are expected to behave in ways that correspond to how we (as a society) think mothers should act. For example, “good” mothers must fulfill a number of requirements, including:

  • Successfully juggling their personal and professional lives;
  • Dedicating their lives to their child; and,
  • Fulfilling all socially expected roles that make up what we think a woman and mother should be (e.g., a cook, a cleaner, a protector, a driver, etc.)

However, women do not all fit into these socially constructed boxes. Their identities are made up of so much more than those three elements listed above, and many women are turning to alcohol as a way to subvert those social norms. Alcohol is an important tool that women are using to re-create their own identities of what it means to be a mother and a woman.

Enter the Wine Mom.

The ‘wine mom’ is typically a middle-aged mother who enjoys drinking refined or “classy” wines. The wine mom culture is an intentionally comical portrayal. It uses alcohol to subvert the idea of constant perfection that is often associated with motherhood. Mothers will share photos of themselves drinking wine while performing typically “motherly” duties, like cooking, doing laundry, and watching their children. The wine mom culture involves jokes comparing wine to “mommy juice” and puns such as “when they whine, I wine.”

A number of articles and editorials written by self-proclaimed ‘wine moms’ have been published in online blogs and news outlets. From the information shared in these articles, it appears that mothers are using the wine mom culture as a way to talk about the challenges of motherhood in a supportive, judgement-free community.

The #WineMom culture has grown on social networking sites, where mothers are using this community to discuss their experiences of motherhood in a perceived safe space. However, its growth on social media has led to the commodification of this culture. Entrepreneurs, social media influencers, and the alcohol industry are targeting this growing demographic in order to sell alcohol and alcohol-related products.

The issue is also that the hashtag #WineMom is normalizing alcohol consumption in a big way. Canada’s low-risk drinking guidelines recommend no more than two standard drinks per day for women, and no more than 10 drinks per week. However, sayings like “save water, drink wine” and massive novelty wine glasses reading “Finally! A wine glass that fits my needs” tell moms that more is better when it comes to drinking.

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Increasing alcohol consumption among women is problematic for a number of different reasons:

  1. Alcohol can lead to a number of different health issues, including cancer. Last year alone it is estimated that 10,700 Canadians were diagnosed with cancer that was linked to their alcohol consumption. Long term drinking can also cause illnesses such as diabetes, liver cirrhosis, hypertension, and stroke.
  2. 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, and 40 to 60% of women are unaware they are pregnant until several weeks into their pregnancy. Normalizing alcohol consumption in women of childbearing ages increases the risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
  3. Increasing alcohol consumption can increase dependency on alcohol. Women who previously participated in the “Wine Mom” culture found that they self-medicated with alcohol as a way of coping with daily stresses.

Some mothers are re-evaluating their relationships with alcohol after realizing the impact that excessive consumption had on their life. Hangovers during school-drop offs, empty bottles of wine after nights home alone with the kids, and vomiting from binge drinking after nights out with other moms have pushed some women to recognize how pervasive alcohol is in their lives and work towards sobriety.

With research showing that alcohol-related deaths in women rose by a shocking 85% from 1990 to 2017 in the United States, it is clear that alcohol is becoming a growing concern for women’s health. Despite promoting increased alcohol consumption, it is important to recognize some of the benefits that the ‘wine mom’ culture may bring to mothers. Anecdotal evidence suggests this culture provides women with a non-judgemental community where they can talk about the challenges of motherhood; it provides mothers with a coping mechanism to deal with the daily stresses they experience; and it provides them with the opportunity to re-create their identities as mothers.

Therein lies the advantage of “Wine Mom” culture: it addresses the needs of women and mothers that are not being met by society. The “benefits” that this culture provides are not necessarily healthy. However, until we address the root causes that drive the existence of wine moms, we will not be able successfully address the risks that this culture poses.

CanFASD researchers are doing some preliminary work in this area to better understand the “wine mom” culture about how it impacts the identities of women and mothers, but there is still a long way to go.

In the meantime, these anecdotal stories found all over the internet show us how important it is to meet the needs of women and mothers. We need to address social issues such as our societal misconceptions of motherhood, the lack of open and honest discussions about the true experiences of women and mothers, and the lack of healthy coping mechanisms for stress and mental health issues.

We need to provide safe and supportive spaces for women to share their challenges of motherhood without fear of their experiences being invalidated or judged. Professionals need to engage in open and honest discussion about drinking habits with women and girls and provide the support and resources to reduce consumption habits when warranted. Above all, society needs to have open conversations about alcohol, the risks associated with alcohol consumption, and why we choose to drink.


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Women’s Questions About Perinatal Cannabis Use and Health Care Provider’s Responses


Background: Cannabis use is common among individuals of reproductive age. We examined publicly posted questions about perinatal cannabis use and licensed United States health care provider responses.

Materials and Methods: Data were medical questions on perinatal cannabis use posted online from March 2011 to January 2017 on an anonymous digital health platform. Posters were able to ‘‘thank’’ health care providers for their responses and providers could ‘‘agree’’ with other provider responses. We characterized 364 user questions and 596 responses from 277 unique providers and examined endorsement of responses through provider ‘‘agrees’’ and user ‘‘thanks.’’

Results: The most frequent questions concerned prenatal cannabis use detection (24.7%), effects on fertility (22.6%), harms of prenatal use to the fetus (21.3%), and risks of baby exposure to cannabis through breast milk (14.4%). Provider sentiment in responses regarding the safety of perinatal cannabis use were coded as 55.6% harmful, 8.8% safe, 8.8% mixed/unsure, and 26.8% safety unaddressed. Half of providers (49.6%) discouraged perinatal cannabis use, 0.5% encouraged use, and 49.9% neither encouraged nor discouraged use.

Provider responses received 1,004 provider ‘‘agrees’’ and 583 user ‘‘thanks.’’ Provider responses indicating that perinatal cannabis use is unsafe received more provider ‘‘agrees’’ than responses indicating that use is safe (B = 0.42, 95% CI 0.02–0.82, p = 0.04). User ‘‘thanks’’ did not differ by provider responses regarding safety or dis/ encouragement.

Conclusion: The data indicate public interest in cannabis use effects before, during, and after pregnancy. While most health care providers indicated cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding is not safe, many did not address safety or discourage use, suggesting a missed educational opportunity

Click here for full article.

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The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the FASD Prevention Conversation Project, its stakeholders or funders.

CANFASD: International Day of Women and Girls in Science

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The United Nations designated February 11th as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science to highlight the lack of gender diversity in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Less than 30% of researchers worldwide are women. This statistic highlights just how important it is to encourage women and girls to enter these fields, and to celebrate the work that female scientists are doing to understand and improve our world.

Research is an integral part of how CanFASD functions. Our goal as an organization is to conduct research to better understand fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), and then use this research to develop evidence-based policies, programs, and resources to improve FASD prevention, diagnosis, and intervention.

At CanFASD, we are fortunate to have such strong representation from women on our research team. To celebrate February 11th and the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we’d like to share some words of wisdom from these incredible researchers to maybe encourage you to get involved with FASD research.


What does research mean to you? 

“My path to research was grounded in curiosity and after working in the trenches of child welfare for 16 years. I wanted to make a difference by engaging in research and influencing systems, policy and practice. There are two researchers among many who have influenced my work, Dr. Nancy Poole and Dr. Deb Rutman. I also get to see emerging scholars and CanFASD researchers who consistently strive for excellence in conducting and promoting research on one of the most vulnerable, marginalized, stigmatized and oppressed groups of people – individuals with FASD. We recognize the journey of struggle in women’s lives that lead to FASD and we strive to humanize these experiences through this research.”

– Dr. Dorothy Badry

Dr. Badry is a researcher and educator in the Social Sciences in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary. It is a true privilege for her to be a research lead with the CanFASD Research Network in the area of Child Welfare and to collaborate with other amazing women researchers across Canada and internationally. She aspires to research those edgy, uncomfortable spaces in the lives of children and families, women’s health, and substance use, and finds it incredibly hard and rewarding work. Her most recent publication is the FASD and Child Welfare issue paper, outlining the landscape of FASD and child welfare in Canada.


Why do you love science? 

“I love science because it’s so innovative. It’s exciting to learn things from different areas and to be able to apply these in different ways to your own work. Science has traditionally been a male-dominated field, but women are just as successful, just an inquiring and just as inspirational with their work and in their leadership. It’s exciting to see work being done to reduce the gender gap in STEM.”

– Dr. Jocelynn Cook

Dr. Cook is a Diagnostic Research Co-Lead with CanFASD. Jocelynn also works with the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) as their first Scientific Director. She is currently working with CanFASD to analyze data from the National FASD Database, an initiative that she helped to spearhead in 2017. This database is the only comprehensive FASD database in the world. It collects diagnostic information from clinics across Canada to give researchers a better understanding of the landscape of FASD in our country.



Why do you think it is important to have women in science? 

“I think it is important to have women in science in order to give girls role-models to look up to. Where there is a lack of women present, there is a lack of diversity in perspectives and a lack of female input into important issues. For me, being a woman in science is to be someone that works for the betterment of the unique populations that we serve. In my work, that means wanting to make meaningful changes for people with FASD, their families, and their communities.”

– Dr. Kelly Coons-Harding

Dr. Coons-Harding is a Research Associate with CanFASD. Her research interests focus primarily on the knowledge and attitudes that health care professionals have surrounding FASD and alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Kelly has published a number of articles, including papers about health care students’ attitudes about alcohol consumption during pregnancy and Ontario health care professionals’ understanding of FASD. Kelly’s is currently researching the culture and attitudes surrounding alcohol consumption among women, particularly the rise of the “wine mom” (blog coming soon).



Do you have any advice for women and girls looking to get into science? 

“Follow your heart and pursue your passions. Thinking differently and approaching challenges uniquely are strengths we bring to problem solving. I was once told by a mentor that my perceived challenges with balancing motherhood and research were actually my strengths as these parts of my life provided a healthy combination of challenge, perspective, and creative thought. This shifted my perspective and I’ve never looked back.”

– Dr. Jacqueline Pei

Dr. Pei is CanFASD’s Senior Research Lead. She works in the area of FASD intervention, conducting research and developing resources to support individuals with FASD in their daily lives and improve their future outcomes. She places the greatest value on her work with various community and government agencies. Her most recent publication is the Towards Healthy Outcomes for Individuals with FASD model, outlining the steps needed to ensure that effective approaches to FASD intervention are implemented across an individual’s lifespan.



Learn more about their amazing researchers here.


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CANFASD: Alcohol-Related Deaths Are On The Rise

New research out of the United States has found that the rates of death from alcohol in women have risen by an unprecedented 85% between 1999 and 2017. Conversely, the death rates related to alcohol in males rose by 35% in the same time period.

Overall, the increase in death rates rose by over half, which indicates that alcohol is an increasingly growing public health concern.

Even more troubling is the fact that these numbers might actually be higher than this study suggests. In some situations, alcohol may not have been recorded as a cause of death when intoxication may have played a factor. For example, if someone who was intoxicated fell and hit their head, the head injury would have been listed on the death certificate but the alcohol that caused the fall may not be.

However, the researchers can’t confirm why we’re seeing an increase in alcohol-related deaths and injuries because there are  a number of other factors to consider:

  1. The overall rates of teenage drinking are actually decreasing, so these findings may be a result of population demographics shifting as the “baby boomer” generation ages.
  2. The increase may reflect the rise in opioid-related deaths, many of which also involve alcohol.
  3. Feminist movements are doing a great job of promoting gender equality, but this movement may be impacting women’s drinking habits, resulting in higher rates of consumption.
  4. Recent research findings suggest that alcohol does more harm to women than men, especially in relation to increasing the risk of certain cancers. Increases in alcohol-related deaths in women may be a result of increased risk, and not an indication that alcohol consumption is on the rise.

Regardless, these findings indicate that alcohol is a growing public health issue, and a fast-growing women’s health issue. Although legal throughout Canada, this substance can have serious health and social consequences for all Canadians. We need to engage in more open and honest conversations about alcohol, our relationships with this substance, the risks associated with drinking, and the social and cultural norms surrounding alcohol consumption.

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Why ‘Mommy Juice’ is total BS

Former evangelists of mommy wine culture are having second thoughts.

Emily Lynn Paulson drank in college and after she graduated, but it wasn’t until she became a mom that she really went all in.

“You’d think that wouldn’t be the case,” Paulson, a mother of five, told HuffPost. “But everything seemed to have wine added to it. There were playdates with wine. Every mommy get-together had wine. … I had that T-shirt that said ‘Prosecco made me do it.’”

“It was almost like, how can you survive motherhood without this substance,” Paulson said.

Mommy wine culture has been raging for years, with funny memes, cutesy apparel and tchotchkes peddled on Etsy and Amazon, and Facebook groups galore (Mommy Needs Wine, Mommy Needs Some Wine, Mommy Wine Time, etc.). In those circles it’s not just alcohol ― it’s mom juice. Mom fuel. It’s an easy and much-needed way for women to eke out some time to relax while doing the relentless work of raising young kids. And the alcohol industry has definitely taken notice, marketing directly to women.

But some of mommy wine culture’s biggest proponents are now sounding the alarm, arguing that the normalization of wine culture isn’t so much giving women an outlet for self-care as it’s potentially harming their health.

On a broader level, America certainly appears to have a bit of an alcohol problem. A new study, published in January in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found that alcohol-related deaths in the United States doubled between 1999 and 2007 — with the largest increase among non-Hispanic white women. And a 2017 study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that problem drinking, defined as drinking to the point where it interferes with your life or you are unable to stop, jumped by more than 80% among American women between 2002 and 2013.

Although there is no evidence that the flowering of mommy wine culture is directly fueling that trend, findings like that tend to undermine the idea that drinking alcohol is something one does to take care of oneself. For years, we’ve been told that moderate drinking may — may — confer some health benefits. But there’s just as much evidence to suggest the opposite.

Click here for full article.

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Global News: Alberta Premier Announces Money for 76 New Addiction Treatment Beds

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has announced funding for dozens of spaces at private addictions treatment facilities, saying that addressing addictions is a priority even as the province trims spending during tough times.

Kenney told an audience at Fresh Start Recovery Centre in Calgary on Saturday the addictions crisis in recent years is being fuelled by economic despair, and that the funding follows a commitment his government made last year to fund 4,000 spaces in treatment centres over three years.

The announcement comes after Kenney said earlier this month that the province could close or relocate supervised drug consumption sites based on a panel report he says affirms concerns the sites are causing disruption in surrounding neighbourhoods.

READ MORE: Kenney announces funding for 4,000 addictions treatment spaces in Alberta

Fresh Start will receive up to $1.6 million each year to fund 30 of its 50 beds which translates to nearly 300 treatment spaces over three years. Kenney says only one bed is currently publicly funded.

Click here for full article.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the FASD Prevention Conversation Project, its stakeholders or funders.


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Payment Date Change for AISH and Income Support

Starting March 2020, the monthly payment date for Albertans receiving Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) and Income Support is changing to the first of the month.

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Previously, the payment date was a few days before the beginning of the month, with the actual date of payment varying from month-to-month. Having a consistent and predictable payment date aligns recipients’ monthly income and monthly costs. This change should help Albertans receiving payments better plan and budget for expenses from one month to the next.

When the first of the month is a weekend or holiday, payments will be deposited or mailed on the last business day of the previous month. For example: March 1st is a Sunday, and the payment date for AISH and Income Support is Friday, February 28.

How recipients can prepare

  • Visit to view the 2020 payment schedule.
  • Call a caseworker or Alberta Supports (1- 877-644-9992) to sign up for direct deposit, if currently receiving payment by cheque.
  • Adjust the timing of monthly bills if needed.

Quick Facts

  • Approximately 97 per cent of AISH and Income Support recipients receive benefits via direct deposit.
  • Clients with direct deposit receive benefits on the payment date.
  • Clients receiving benefits by cheque will receive benefits in the mail on the payment date or within three business days.