Women's Health

Light Drinking May Not Harm Babies

Light Drinking May Not Harm Babies

Key Takeaways

  • Pregnant women who drink alcohol lightly may not be harming their children.
  • One recent study found that children of mothers who were light drinkers during pregnancy did not perform worse than did children whose mothers did not drink during pregnancy.
  • Pregnant women are still advised not to consume alcohol.

New research shows that a pregnant mother drinking up to two glasses of alcohol may not harm the children. About 11,500 mothers and their children participated in this study. Researchers collected data regarding the drinking habits of the mothers when the kids were about 9 months old. When the children were about 5 years of age the children were given with a number of cognitive and behavioral tests.

According to this study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, women who have no more than two drinks in a week are defined as light drinkers. Yvonne Kelly, PhD, of University College London, study researcher, defined a drink as a very small glass of wine, a half pint of beer, or a small single measure of spirits. The results showed that children whose mothers were light drinkers did not have any increased risk emotional impairments when compared to the mothers who do not drink. Kelly warns that this does not mean that pregnant mothers should drink. In the UK, pregnant women are advised not to drink during the first trimester and not to have more than two drinks in a week after that.

In the US, pregnant mothers are advised not to drink at all, says Eva Pressman, MD, director of maternal/fetal medicine at the University of Rochester, New York. Pressman noted that most of the women who were light drinkers belonged to families in the high income groups. Further, children from the high income families tend to perform better in behavioral and cognitive tests. It may have masked some of the harms of mother’s light drinking during pregnancy.

“It is very difficult to tell the safe threshold for drinking alcohol during pregnancy and women are advised not to have any alcohol at all”, says Pressman.