Healthy Living

Moderate Alcohol Intake during Pregnancy is Fine

Pregnant women who drink up to 8 drinks per week do not risk neurological development of the child, says new research from Denmark.

The study included more than 1,600 pregnant women. Half of these participants were first time mothers.

Previous research has shown than alcohol consumption during pregnancy leads to lower intelligence levels in children and low attention span. High alcohol consumption is also associated with miscarriage among women. However many studies have reported that moderate drinking does not cause any harm.

"High prenatal exposure to alcohol has consistently been associated with adverse effects on neurodevelopment. Areas such as intelligence, attention and executive functions have been found to be particularly vulnerable. However, less is known about the effects of low to moderate, weekly average consumption levels and binge drinking," said Ulrik Schiøler Kesmodel, Consultant Gynecologist and one of the authors of the study.

As many as five recent studies have said that low to moderate levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy might not adversely affect the child's mental growth.

Children who were born to mothers in the study group were given tests to measure their intelligence when they were 5 year old. The researchers found no significant difference in the IQ levels of children whose mothers reported drinking 5 times or less per week and the IQ levels of children whose mothers abstained from alcohol during early pregnancy.

Low level of alcohol consumption is defined as 1-4 drinks per week while moderate levels is defined as 5-8 drinks per week. The Danish National Board of Health defines one drink as 12 grams (0.4 oz) of pure alcohol.

"Our findings show that low to moderate drinking is not associated with adverse effects on the children aged five. However, despite these findings, additional large scale studies should be undertaken to further investigate the possible effects," said Kesmodel.

"These five papers are important as they look at a range of drinking patterns amongst women in early pregnancy. It is important to note the difference in alcohol levels from country to country and a standard drink varies greatly," said John Thorp, BJOG Deputy-Editor-in-Chief.

"More research is needed to look at long term effects of alcohol consumption on children. The best advice is to choose not to drink however small amounts have not been shown to be harmful," Thorp said.

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