Consuming a few alcoholic drinks a week while pregnant might not be as terrible as would-be mothers have been led to believe, according to a new British study.
Children born to mothers who drank moderately while pregnant did not show any signs of balance problems when they were 10, according to the research, published in the journal BMJ Open and reported by Time magazine. Trouble with balance is a good indicator of problems with brain development in utero, the authors say.
The researchers studied nearly 7,000 10-year-olds enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. The kids were given three balance tests, including walking on a balance beam and standing still on one leg with their eyes closed. Contrary to expectations, those whose mothers reported drinking three to seven alcoholic beverages a week during their 18th week of pregnancy did better on the balance exercises compared to those whose mothers abstained, falling into the top 25% of performers.
(Next study: Give the moms a few drinks and ask them to walk a balance beam. That would be fun!)
The findings support those of a 2012 Danish study that found that light to moderate drinking early in pregnancy was not associated with declines in intelligence, attention or self-control in children at age 5. But that study did find a link between heavy drinking and negative developmental effects (is that a big surprise?).
However, other research has shown that drinking can cause physical deformities as well as behavioral and cognitive symptoms in babies, including fetal alcohol syndrome.
The scientists in the UK study found that the moderately drinking moms also tended to have more education and higher socioeconomic backgrounds. These environmental factors, they say, could explain the improved balance results among their children as the kids may have benefited from more education and physical activity training that could have made up for any potential cognitive deficits caused by the alcohol. Translation: If you're a rich mama who can afford tutors and Mommy and Me yoga classes, you don't have to give up your Pinot while preggers!
Or, moderate drinking in pregnancy could just be not that big a deal. (Who is going to create the first line of Mommy Cocktails? Mommy Cocktails With Brain Boosters!)
But, the study doesn't offer a definitive “safe” level of alcohol consumption for pregnant women, so most experts say the current recommendation that mothers-to-be avoid alcohol is still good advice.
On the other hand, there's probably no reason to freak the eff out if you find yourself pregnant and sipping a glass of Chardonnay.
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