Massachusetts Beverage Business



PREGNANCY CAN BE a long nine months. Nausea fatigue and weight gain aside, there is often a list a mile long of “don’ts” for pregnant women to adhere to – and “don’t drink alcohol” is one of the big ones. While many women personally see nothing wrong with a drink now and then, it tends to be frowned upon. Perhaps the latest results of a new study will alter that. British scientists have found that drinking a small glass of wine a week during pregnancy does not harm children and may actually improve their behavior and vocabulary.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) studied data from 12,5OO three-year-old children, looking at their mother’s drinking patterns during pregnancy and assessment of the children’s behavioral and mental capacity for thinking and learning. They found that those born to women who said they drank ‘a glass of wine’ very occasionally or up to two drinks once a week throughout pregnancy were less likely to have conduct problems, hyperactivity and emotional problems than children of abstainers. Dr. Yvonne Kelly, UCL Epidemiology & Public Health, the study’s lead author, said: “Our research has found that light drinking by pregnant mothers does not increase the risk of behavioral difficulties or cognitive deficits. Indeed, for some behavioral and cognitive outcomes, children born to light drinkers were less likely to have problems compared to children of abstinent mothers, although children born to heavy drinkers were more likely to have problems compared to children of mothers who drank nothing whilst pregnant.”
A small (125ml) glass of 12% ABV white wine is the equivalent to one unit. Women in the study were not asked about the size of the glass of wine they drank.

Almost two-thirds of mothers reported abstinence during pregnancy, and 29% were classified as light drinkers consuming one or two units a week, 6% as moderate defined as three to six units a week and 2% as heavy/binge drinkers who consumed more than seven units a week. The UCL study found boys born to mothers who drank lightly were 4O percent less likely to have conduct problems and 3O percent less likely to be hyperactive. Those boys also had higher vocabulary scores and could identify colors, shapes, letters, and numbers more easily than those born to abstainers. Girls born to light drinkers were 3O percent less likely to have emotional symptoms and peer problems compared with those born to abstainers. Dr. Kelly said the findings could be in part because women who drank small amounts tended to be in higher income families and may have a more relaxed approach to parenting rather than any physical effect the alcohol was having on the unborn child.

Conflicting guidance has been issued by different health agencies to women about whether it is safe to drink small quantities of alcohol during pregnancy. There has been little evidence of harm to the unborn child of drinking small amounts, but many experts feel this cannot be proven conclusively so it is better to be ‘safe than sorry’ and not drink at all. Dr. Kelly said: “There is inconsistency in policy around this issue and studies such as this one are vital in light of the wider debate around drinking and pregnancy. Our study’s findings do raise questions as to whether the current push for policy to recommend complete abstinence during pregnancy is merited and suggest that further research needs to be done.” The research is published in the international journal of epidemiology.

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