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New Study Suggests Light Drinking During Pregnancy May Be OK?

by Katlyn Joy | May 3, 2013 12:00 AM
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A new study published in BJOG: International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology on April 7, 2013 has found no negative impact on children at age 7 who were born to women who were light drinkers during pregnancy.

The study followed 10,534 7 year olds to look into cognitive and behavioral outcomes. The study was conducted by researchers from the University College London and relied on home visit interviews and questionnaires answered by parents and teachers of the children. The questions covered topics which were meant to reveal cognitive issues or behavioral problems. Specifically the areas investigated were emotional behavioral topics such as hyperactivity, conduct problems or attention problems. Cognitive areas covered included performance in reading, math and spatial skills.

Three groups made up the study: children born to women who never drank (12.7 percent,) women who drank only 2 units of alcohol a week or light drinkers (23.1 percent,) those who drank normally but abstained during pregnancy (57.1 percent,) and those who drank more heavily (7.2 percent.)

The data for the study was gathered from the Millennium Cohort Study, a UK study which studied infants born in 2000 to 2002. The purpose was to discover whether negative cognitive and behavioral effects could be linked to light drinking, as heavier drinking has been established as a problem already.

The study actually found that children born to light drinkers had fewer behavioral difficulty scores than from those born to mothers who did not drink. However, the difference was minimal. Additionally, researchers found a slight increase in cognitive development specifically among boys in spatial skills in reading from the light drinker group versus the non-drinkers.

The study reported that after statistically adjustments were made the differences were virtually unnoticeable. Co-author of the study, Yvonne Kelly, co-director, ESRC International Centre for Lifecourse Studies (ICLS) at University College London states, "There appears to be no increased risk of negative impacts of light drinking in pregnancy on behavioural or cognitive development in 7-year-old children."

"We need to understand more about how children's environments influence their behavioural and intellectual development. While we have followed these children for the first seven years of their lives, further research is needed to detect whether any adverse effects of low levels of alcohol consumption in pregnancy emerge later in childhood."

The Editor-in-Chief of BJOG added this caveat, "These findings, that drinking not more than one or two units of alcohol per week during pregnancy is not linked to developmental problems in early-mid childhood, are consistent with current UK Department of Health guidelines. "However, it remains unclear as to what level of alcohol consumption may have adverse outcomes so this should not alter current advice and if women are worried about consumption levels the safest option would be to abstain from drinking during pregnancy."

An earlier Danish study published in June of 2012 on alcohol effects raised similar questions and concerns. At Baby Corner, we still hold to the idea that while alcohol use at a low level may not cause significant damage to unborn babies, the best and safest option is to abstain during pregnancy. So many factors are yet unknown and since pregnancy is temporary, and drinking an unnecessary indulgence, not drinking at all is in baby's best interest.

Heavy drinker and perhaps moderate drinking, since the levels have yet to be established, are associated with the leading cause of infant retardation, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. This condition is marked with heavy birth defects, emotional problems, and significant intellectual impairment as well as certain facial traits.

Source: BJOG: International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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