Drinking While Pregnant: New Research Says It Doesn’t Hurt Children, But Should We Do It?
by Denene Milner
I’m sure for somebody, this is “good” news: A new study out of the UK suggests that pregnant women can consume one to eight alcoholic drinks a week without causing any developmental problems in their children.
Backed by funding from the Centers For Disease Control, Danish researchers studied more than 1600 pregnant women from their first antenatal visit then followed up by looking at the effects of alcohol on the IQ, attention span and self-control of their children at age five. What they found: low to moderate weekly drinking in early pregnancy had no significant effect on the neurodevelopment of the children at age five. There was no difference in IQ test results for kids whose mothers drank one to four drinks per week while pregnant, vs. children of mothers who had five to eight drinks per week while pregnant, vs. moms who abstained altogether, the research found.
Children whose moms consumed more than nine drinks per week while pregnant did, however, tend to have lower attention spans, the researchers added.
Of course, heavy drinking during pregnancy has long been linked to miscarriage, fetal alcohol syndrome and low birth weight, and pretty much every obstetrician and professional medical group will tell you that drinking liquor while pregnant is the No. 1 preventable cause of physical and cognitive birth abnormalities. And the researchers noted in a collection of papers published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology that their testing noted only noticeable—not subtle—changes in the development of the kids and did not track whether alcohol-related changes might become apparent later in their lives. But some doctors fear moms-to-be might view this as a “free pass” for drinking while pregnant.
“The danger of it is that people consider it definitive research and reassurance that any alcohol use, including binge drinking, during pregnancy is innocuous,” Janet Williams, a pediatrician at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, told NPR, adding that this new research prompts more questions than answers. “The safest conclusion is that no drinking causes no fetal alcohol effects.”
That, certainly, was what my obstetrician told me when I was pregnant with my two babies, and pretty much every, single book and website I poured through while my kids were in my stomach said the same. Only once did my OB suggest I have a drink, and that was the day I went into labor. I was nervous, scared and in a gang of pain; she knew the baby would come at any time but, because my water hadn’t broken yet, I wasn’t going to give birth at that very second. Her prescription: try, try, try to relax—and have a small glass of wine if that will help.
I admit: It sounded like a GREAT idea at the time. But, despite her assurances that it would not hurt my baby, I just couldn’t bring myself to have so much as a sip of an alcoholic drink. The safety of my baby was so much more important than my comfort and relaxation.
I do hope that this is what mothers-to-be and pregnant moms take away from this new study—that no matter how many research papers suggest it’s okay to have a few drinks while pregnant, ultimately, forgoing alcohol altogether is the safest bet to prevent developmental problems in your children. Period.
- Moderate pregnancy alcohol ‘safe’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Moderate Drinking During Pregnancy May Not Affect Child’s Neurodevelopment (wibw.com)
- Good News, Snooki! New Study Says Drinking During Pregnancy Might be Okay After All! Or Not! (mamapop.com)
- Pregnant women told: Stay away from booze (stuff.co.nz)
- So, Drinking During Pregnancy is Alright Now? (clutchmagonline.com)
- Is moderate drinking OK while pregnant? (sfgate.com)
- Everybody Calm Down, Drinking When You’re Pregnant Is Just Fine [Pregnancy] (jezebel.com)
- Research shows that it is safe to drink moderate amounts of alcohol when pregnant (medicalinsuranceinfo.typepad.com)
- Is Moderate Drinking During Pregnancy Harmful? (abcnews.go.com)
- Limited amounts of alcohol during pregnancy do not harm children (eurekalert.org)