Most moms-to-be know that habitual, heavy drinking during pregnancy can lead to serious health consequences for her baby, including fetal alcohol syndrome. But what about the occasional beer or glass of wine? According to an ABC News Report, a controversial study published October 5, 2010, in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, suggests that light consumption of alcohol may not be harmful to the baby's development.
Conducted by researchers from University College London, the study looked at data from more than 11,000 women and children (born between September 2000 and January 2002). As ABC News describes, women were placed into categories based on how much they reported drinking during pregnancy, including teetotalers who never drank alcohol; those who abstained while pregnant; light drinkers (one to two drinks per week); moderate drinkers (three to six per week, or three to five at any one time); and heavy drinkers (seven or more drinks per week or six in one sitting).
Unsurprisingly, researchers found that among children of heavy drinkers, more were more likely to be hyperactive, with more behavioral and emotional problems by age 5 years old than children whose mothers abstained. But when researchers compared behavioral and cognitive development of children whose mothers drank lightly while pregnant with those whose mothers had abstained, no developmental differences were detected.
Does this mean it’s OK to imbibe? Not so fast, say a vocal group of prenatal health experts. "You can walk on a railroad track and not be hit by a train, but that doesn't mean it's a safe thing to do," says Dr. Michael Katz, senior vice president for Research and Global Programs with March of Dimes, and professor emeritus of Pediatrics at Columbia University, in an interview with ABC. "I worry about this article because it could be over-interpreted, and over-interpreting data of this nature is probably dangerous."
Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor, commenting on the study, notes, "I'd be very concerned if a woman saw this study and felt that it gave her a green light to drink during pregnancy."
Researchers hope this information can be used for future research of the effects of light drinking during pregnancy. But in the meantime groups, such as the March of Dimes, stand by their policy of advising women to abstain from all alcohol during pregnancy.