I recently wrote a story about caffeine consumption during breastfeeding being practically harmless to children. And of that news, I was in near celebration. Within that article I also mentioned one of the other difficulties I anticipate during pregnancy being forgoing alcohol, as I’m a lover of wine and an occasional cocktail. But according to new research, that may not be as big of a concern.
A collection of Danish studies is suggesting that moderate amounts of alcohol during pregnancy does not appear to affect the child’s mental abilities.
To conduct these studies, researchers examined children up to the age of five whose mothers drank moderate amounts of alcohol while pregnant. The more than 1,600 Danish mothers involved in the study were an average age of 30 and each drank a varied number of alcoholic beverages during pregnancy.
While this type of study is rightfully viewed as dangerous, women in Denmark don’t generally consider slight drinking during pregnancy to be a health concern. A very small percentage of the women involved in the study were actually consuming large amounts of alcohol: almost half were abstaining completely; a small portion was consuming one to four drinks a week; around 175 were having five to eight drinks; and only 20 were consuming nine or more beverages a week.
To collect the data, researchers examined children in the areas of IQ, attention span, planning and organizational skills, and self control at the time of birth and again at the age of 5. The results showed that mothers who drank one to five drinks per week and even up to five to eight drinks per week during pregnancy did not present their children with increased risk of IQ or attention deficits as compared to women who didn’t drink.
However, the threshold was set at eight drinks as nine or more was associated with attention issues among children. Beverages equal to 12 grams of pure alcohol were considered one drink.
As always, while these studies present new information and findings, because they contradict what has previously been believed about safe pregnancy, larger-scale studies would be required to confirm the results.
Because the findings present a risky message, researchers do not want the public to view this as a a free pass to drink carelessly during pregnancy. Bruce Goldeman, director of Substance Abuse Services at a hospital in Glen Oaks, New York, issued a statement regarding the study saying, “These findings can easily send a very dangerous message to pregnant women. Those suffering from alcoholism may attempt to rationalize that it is safe to drink moderately something they may ultimately be unable to do. The best advice to women,” he says, “is to abstain during pregnancy.”
Other risks of drinking during pregnancy include increased risk of cognitive problems and miscarriage. Other experts point out that while alcohol consumption damage may not be apparent at 5 years old, symptoms may surface later in life. Conservative advice remains that abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy is still the safest route to take for the both mother and child’s health.