Light Drinking in Pregnancy

Children born to mothers who drank up to 1–2 drinks per week or per occasion during pregnancy were not at increased risk of clinically relevant behavioural difficulties or cognitive deficits compared with children of abstinent mothers. Heavy drinking during pregnancy appears to be associated with behavioural problems and cognitive deficits in offspring at age 3 years whereas light drinking does not ~~ (Kelly, 2008, Light Drinking In Pregnancy)

A new study sheds some light on an interesting topic. In recent years, nearly all physicians have recommended that their patients completely abstain from drinking alcohol while they are pregnant. Heavy drinking during pregnancy has been clearly linked to a very serious problem called “fetal alcohol syndrome.” Babies affected by this suffer from decreased mental function as well as a variety of physical defects. In those studies these negative effects seem to occur only at high levels of alcohol  consumption– such as greater than two standard size drinks per day.

On the other hand, in many parts of the world alcohol consumption has been a normal part of daily life for many generations. It seems that women in these societies have often consumed small amounts of alcohol when pregnant without causing obvious harm to their children. Interestingly, this study showed that women who drank small amounts of alcohol– less than two drinks per week– may have had healthier babies. Over the years, these children showed better behavioral and mental scores and babies whose mothers did not drink at all during pregnancy.

When I took a look at the scientific literature, I noticed that many studies have had similar findings. Unfortunately, none of these studies are perfect, so we have not proven that drinking during pregnancy is perfectly safe. But I am becoming more and more confident that small amounts of alcohol are probably safe for most pregnant women if they so choose.

Micheal Doyle, MD Michael E. Doyle, MD, is a board-certified family physician with nearly two decades of clinical experience. At Darien Integrative Medicine in Darien, Connecticut, he combines his extensive experience in both conventional and alternative medicine to offer his patients uniquely safe and effective care.

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