There are very few things that strike fear into the hearts of parents than the idea of drinking while pregnant. People can even deduce that a woman is pregnant when she declines a drink when at a birthday or social event. And no one wants to end up like Snookie, who found out she was pregnant following through on a drunk dare to take a pregnancy test that turned out to be positive.
But new research shows that moderate drinking is not harmful to the growing baby before birth and resulted in no cognitive or behavioral issues in children up to seven years after birth.
The study, published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, looked at infants born in the United Kingdom between 2000 and 2002 to see if up to two units of alcohol a week — that's around a medium glass (175 ml) of 12 percent alcohol wine — resulted in any developmental or cognitive issues in children.
Previous studies have only followed heavy drinkers and the effects on children who are both with fetal alcohol syndrome and have major mental deficits that follow them through life. This is the sixth study in the same journal showing that light drinking is not harmful.
By surveying new mothers researchers saw that 12.7 percent of women didn't drink alcohol, 57.1 percent who didn't drink solely during pregnancy, 23.1 percent were light drinkers and 7.2 percent drank moderately during pregnancy.
At the age of 7, parents and teachers were asked to fill out questionnaires about the children's social and emotional behavior, which looked at things such as attention span and hyperactivity. Additionally, researchers tested math and reading skills in the children.
The study focused on the women who abstained from drinking during pregnancy and those who drank lightly.The research showed that after statistical adjustment there was no difference between children that had been born to mothers that drank lightly and those who didn't drink at all.
"There appears to be no increased risk of negative impacts of light drinking in pregnancy on behavioural or cognitive development in 7-year-old children." said lead author Professor Yvonne Kelly, co-director, ESRC International Centre for Lifecourse Studies (ICLS) at University College London.
Dr. Yvonne continued saying that the environment is a far larger impact on the development of a child's emotionally, behavioral and intellectual development.
"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."
The research published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology can be found here.