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Light Drinking No Risk To Baby

Light Drinking No Risk To Baby

Good news for women who like to enjoy a regular drink…

A new study has found that drinking one or two units of alcohol a week during pregnancy does not increase the risk of developmental problems in the child.

The study, which analyzed more than 11,000 five-year-olds, conclusively found no evidence of harm due to effects of light alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Despite the study’s results, official advice suggests women should still abstain from drinking during pregnancy, especially in the first three months.

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Consuming Small Amounts Of Alcohol During Pregnancy Ok?

Previous research has shown that heavy drinking during pregnancy can lead to more ‘behavioral and emotion problems’ in the child. It is known that when a pregnant women drinks alcohol, it passed through the placenta and reaches the baby. Because of this researchers have strongly linked heavy drinking to an increased risk of damage.

But very few studies have examined the effects of light drinking during pregnancy.

The study, conducted by University College London in collaboration with three other UK universities, is the second by the group to analyze the brain development of children whose mother’s drank lightly during pregnancy.

The first had found no evidence of problems at age three. The latest extended the checks until aged five, but also yielded the same results.

‘In fact, the children born to light drinkers appeared slightly less likely to suffer behavioral problems, and scored higher on cognitive tests, compared with women who stopped during pregnancy.’ [BBC]

Dr Yvonne Kelly, from UCL, said:

Theres now a growing body of robust evidence that there is no increase in developmental difficulties associated with light drinking during pregnancy.

Kelly added that women would be able to make better decisions armed this information. However, some still stand by the current advice. A spokesman for the Department of Health said:

We are continually taking account of evidence and welcome this further report…

However, the research does not lead to any change in the current UK wide advice that pregnant women and those trying to conceive should, as a precautionary measure, avoid alcohol. [BBC]

The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence suggested that women should avoid alcohol, particularly in the first three months of pregnancy. This advice was backed by Chris Sorek, the chief executive of alcohol awareness charity Drinkaware, who said:

Despite these findings, it is important to remember that light drinking can mean different things to different people…

There is a risk that if pregnant women take this research as a green light to drink a small amount, they could become complacent, drink more than they think they are and inadvertently cause harm to their unborn child…

Excessive drinking during pregnancy can carry serious consequences and lifelong damage to children and should be avoided. [BBC]

But Dr Tony Falconer, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said that while the safest choice was abstinence, the current evidence suggested that drinking one or two units, once or twice a week was acceptable. [BBC]

The key public health message, whether or not a woman is pregnant, is that light drinking is fine, but heavy and binge drinking should be avoided. [BBC]

The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

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