Drinking During Pregnancy: Yay Or Nay?

A new study has found that moderate drinking by moms-to-be may not harm their children’s neurodevelopment -- but should pregnant women see this as a green light to drink?

Pregnancy drinking

Brain development is very important when you’re growing a baby, and most moms-to-be are keen to avoid anything that could be detrimental to their baby’s health. The question lately, however, has been about the consumption of alcohol. Is it best to abstain completely, or is a glass of wine every now and then okay? Studies seem to come and go on the topic, but lately most have been saying that some drinking is ok, and this has been reflected yet again in another research project that came to the conclusion that moderate drinking doesn’t seem to have any effect on a baby’s neurodevelopment.

Moderate drinking: OK?

Researchers tracked nearly 7,000 children over a span of 10 years to see how their balance was -- or wasn’t -- affected by their mother’s drinking habits during pregnancy. Balance is a skill that is determined by brain development in the womb, which is why it was of particular interest to the researchers. They suspected that a child’s balancing ability, when compared to the mother’s drinking habits, might reflect on whether drinking during pregnancy hurts brain development.

They found, on average, that children of moms who drank between one and seven alcoholic drinks per week did not exhibit balance issues by the time they reached age 10.

The children, born between 1991 and 1992, were part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).

"Although [balance] is only one measure of neurodevelopment, it should not be disregarded," said Dr. James Nicholls, research manager at Alcohol Research UK. "The debate on advice to women in pregnancy is an important one, and many people will argue that the 'precautionary principle' of advising no alcohol at all should hold. However, while advice needs to be clear, we should also take note of evidence which points to the conclusion that small amounts of alcohol are not a significant risk."

The bottom line

As with any potential drug use (including alcohol), the benefits and risks should be discussed with your physician. Too much alcohol can have devastating effects on a fetus, and the line between "little-to-no risk" and "high risk" isn’t totally clear.

More on drinking and pregnancy

Pregnant? Occasional drinking may not be harmful
Worth the risk? Early drinking may not harm your baby
10 Non-alcoholic drinks for pregnant moms

Tags: alcohol during pregnancy

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