Having A Drink During Pregnancy Not As Bad As Previously Believed
June 21, 2012

Having A Drink During Pregnancy Not As Bad As Previously Believed

It must be difficult adapting to the radical changes that accompany pregnancy. In addition to the morning sickness and the general public´s fascination with how large you´ve become, you also have to deal with a changing diet, either by choice or by new, sudden preference. It seems an unusual cruelty, then, that the one thing to take the edge off at the end of the day – a stiff drink or glass of red wine – is also on the forbidden list. Sure, you can imbibe, but you also run the risk of standing in front of the business end of some very intensely stared daggers.

Take ease, expectant ones, a series of papers published Wednesday suggest a drink now and again in your early stages of pregnancy may not cause any significant harm to your baby. Going on a 9-month bender, however, may cause your baby to have a low attention span.

These papers will appear in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The Danish researchers who conducted this research studied the effects of low, moderate, high and even binge drinking on five-year olds. These researchers recruited women from the Danish National Birth Cohort during their first antenatal visit.

For reference purposes, low average weekly alcohol consumption was defined as 1-4 drinks per week, moderate as 5-8 drinks and high as 9 or more drinks. As it often is in other applications, binge drinking is described as having 5 or more drinks on a single occasion. As a control, some women did not partake of any alcohol during the research. All told, 1,628 expectant mothers took part in this research with an average age of 30.9. More than half were first time mothers, 12% were single mothers and 31% reported smoking cigarettes during their pregnancy.

The researchers were studying the effects of drinking on the attention span, IQ, organization and self-control in 5 year olds.

Overall, these researchers found that having the occasional drink (anywhere from 1-4 a week) had no significant effect on the development of a 5-year old child. Surprisingly, binge drinking also showed no significant signs of damage on the 5-year olds. In fact, the children of mothers who enjoyed anywhere from 1-8 drinks a week exhibited the same attention span as those children of mothers who became teetotalers in their pregnancy. Just be sure not to have that last drink, however. The research found the cutoff at 9 drinks per week. At this level of drinking – around 2 a night – researchers found an impaired attention span in the 5-year olds.

“High prenatal exposure to alcohol has consistently been associated with adverse effects on neurodevelopment. Areas such as intelligence, attention and executive functions have been found to be particularly vulnerable. However, less is known about the effects of low to moderate, weekly average consumption levels and binge drinking,” said Ulrik Schiøler Kesmodel, Consultant Gynecologist and Associate Professor at Aarhus University in the press release about this alcohol-fueled study.

Before you print and laminate this study, Kesmodel warns, “Our findings show that low to moderate drinking is not associated with adverse effects on the children aged five. However, despite these findings, additional large scale studies should be undertaken to further investigate the possible effects.”

The researchers conclude their paper by encouraging pregnant women to remain conservative in their consumption. While remaining alcohol-free is always the safest bet, having a drink at the end of a particularly rough day early in your pregnancy shouldn´t cause any damage down the road.