June 18, 2013
Research Shows Pregnant Women Can Drink Wine Safely
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Wary of the notorious effects it can have on a developing fetus, research has shown most pregnant women avoid alcohol consumption.However, a new study from UK researchers has found drinking a daily glass of wine by pregnant women does not harm the neurological development of their children-to-be, as determined by a balance test. In fact, children of these ℠moderate´ drinking mothers actually performed better than children whose mothers had abstained from drinking.
Determined to be an indicator of prenatal neurodevelopment, balance tests were performed on almost 7,000 10-year-olds as part of the study. The researchers also recorded mothers´ drinking habits during and after pregnancy.
"We found no strong evidence for adverse effects of typical general population levels of maternal alcohol use during pregnancy on balance outcomes in school-aged offspring,” said researchers, publishing their study in the journal BMJ Open.
"In general, higher total maternal-alcohol consumption during pregnancy was associated with better offspring balance,” the study authors added.
The researchers did note moderate drinking tended to correlate with the study´s more affluent mothers, while abstaining or heavy drinking was associated with poor or working-class mothers, making socio-economic status potentially a confounding factor.
"Most of the women in this study either didn't drink at all or if they did drink, they didn't drink very much," lead author John Macleod, a professor from the University of Bristol, told The Guardian.
"However, we also found that the women who moderately drank compared to women who didn't drink tended to be more middle-class,” Macleod said. "They were more socially advantaged. Having a middle-class mum compared to having a working-class mum is likely to advance a child in a lot of ways.”
"They may have better balance, they might do better at school,” he added. “Having middle-class parents has advantages to a child that are nothing to do with alcohol [sic]."
Over 70 percent of pregnant mothers reported abstaining from alcohol during the first 18 weeks of pregnancy, while 4.5 percent said they drank 7 or more glasses a week. About 15 percent of women in the study were classified as binge drinkers, having drunk four or more glasses at any one time during the first 18 weeks.
Four years after their pregnancy, over 28 percent of the women were not drinking any alcohol, and over 50 percent were drinking at least 3 glasses of alcohol a week.
When children born in the study reached the age of 10, they were asked to perform a 20-minute balance assessment. The assessment included walking on a beam and standing on one leg for 20 seconds, once with eyes open and once with eyes closed, known as a static balance test. Each child was allowed two attempts at the tests. The tests were performed as a part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).
The researchers found the children of moderately drinking moms were actually better at performing the static balance test.
"The way we investigated this further was to look at genes,” Macleod said. “People who carry a certain gene are far more likely not to drink alcohol on average.
"If it was really true that using a small amount of alcohol during pregnancy benefited children's balance then we would expect those with mums who had the gene to have worse balance,” he explained. "We didn't see any evidence that babies of mothers with this gene had worse outcomes than those who drank.”
Macleod noted better balance was associated with higher levels of affluence and educational success.
"The supposed benefits we saw are not the effects of alcohol, they are effects of middle-classness,” he said.