Light Drinking During Pregnancy Not Harmful
April 17, 2013

Light Drinking During Pregnancy Not Linked To Later Problems

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

In a recent report in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, researchers found that light drinking during pregnancy is not linked to adverse behavioral or cognitive outcomes later in life.

The team conducted a nation-wide study of infants born in the UK between 2000 and 2012 to determine whether light drinking during pregnancy had an effect on children. Previous studies linked heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy with health and developmental problems, but the effects of low-level consumption have remained unclear.

Researchers used information on 10,534 seven year olds from home-visit interviews and questionnaires completed by parents and teachers to identify social and emotional behavior. These children were also tested for cognitive performance in math, reading and spatial skills.

Groups who made up the sample were mothers who never drank, mothers who did not drink in pregnancy, those who were light drinkers during pregnancy, and those who drank more during pregnancy. The study focused on the results from children born to mothers who were light drinkers and those who abstained from alcohol altogether.

The team found that boys born to light drinkers actually had fewer behavioral issues as well as better spatial and reading skills compared to those born to mothers who did not drink at all during pregnancy. The researchers also found that children born to light drinkers had more favorable cognitive test scores compared to children born to non-drinkers. However, the differences were very slight and not enough to be considered statistically significant.

"There appears to be no increased risk of negative impacts of light drinking in pregnancy on behavioral or cognitive development in 7-year-old children," said Professor Yvonne Kelly, co-director, ESRC International Centre for Lifecourse Studies (ICLS) at University College London, and co-author of the study.

"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."

John Thorp, BJOG Deputy-Editor-in-Chief, said that the findings are consistent with current guidelines.

"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," Thorp said.

"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."

A study released in November last year shows that moderate drinking during pregnancy affects a child's IQ. The team found that even moderate amounts of alcohol during pregnancy can have an effect on the child´s intelligence later in life, and they suggested that women avoid alcohol entirely while pregnant.