Light Drinking Said OK for Pregnant Women

The results don't mean that alcohol is good for a developing fetus.


- Drinking a little alcohol while pregnant may not be as harmful as once thought.

- Having one or two drinks a week while pregnant could actually give your kids a slight developmental advantage.

- It is still unsafe to drink heavily or binge during pregnancy.

Drinking a little alcohol during pregnancy is just fine for most women, found a new study.

In fact, pregnant moms who are able to kick back and relax a little may even give their children a developmental leg up, at least for the first five years of life, which is how far the study tracked kids.

"Heavy binge drinking has been linked for a long time with difficulties for mothers and the children born to them," said lead researcher Yvonne Kelly, an epidemiologist at University College London.

"There hasn't been rigorous research to look at the lower end of the drinking spectrum," she added. "Regardless of the emotive issues, we wanted to look at the science."

The study, which found no evidence of harm from having a couple drinks a week during pregnancy, was so well done and its findings so conclusive that it ought to become the final word in the field, said Fred Bookstein, an applied statistician who studies fetal alcohol spectrum disorders at both the University of Washington, Seattle, and the University of Vienna.

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"This is such a good study that it should shut down this line of research," said Boostein, who plans to refer people to the paper when they ask him about drinking during pregnancy, and hopes that research dollars can now go towards finding the effects of other, more troublesome chemicals.

"It is no longer valid to argue that we don't know enough about low-dose drinking during pregnancy or that the known effects of binge drinking may penetrate to low-dose drinkers somehow," he added. "There is no detectable risk associated with light or moderate drinking during pregnancy."

In the United Kingdom, where Kelly and colleagues work, mothers tend to have a relatively relaxed attitude toward alcohol during pregnancy. About a third of pregnant women report drinking at least some alcohol, Kelly said, offering a natural experiment to look at how levels of drinking affect children later on.

The researchers tapped into a long-term study that has followed more than 18,500 children since birth between 2000 and 2002.

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