Is It Really OK to Drink a Little Bit While Pregnant?
You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again: Drinking any amount of alcohol while pregnant can have potentially serious consequences on your unborn child's health. Yet new research suggests it might actually be OK to imbibe a few times while you're expecting. A recent study published in the U.K. journal , for example, found that consuming up to two alcoholic beverages a week during pregnancy was associated with no adverse effects on children up to seven years of age.
What's more, a new working paper out of the (NBER) found than drinking wine while pregnant may be linked to improved academic performance in kids.
So what should you make of this new research? "According to national guidelines, there's no known amount or type of alcohol that's safe to drink at any point during your pregnancy," says Christine Metz, Ph.D., investigator at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. In other words, you shouldn't take these findings at face value—particularly without understanding the methodology of the research.
Here's why: In both aforementioned studies, researchers relied on questionnaires taken by the mothers—which have their limitations. "Studies like these have flaws, so you have to be extra careful with how you interpret the data," says , M.D., associate professor of medicine and OB/GYN at the Yale School of Medicine. "There tends to be some bias toward people's answers in these types of experiments." In other words, study participants may under- or over- estimate how much they've actually consumed, which makes it difficult to come to any definitive conclusions based off of their answers.
Even the researchers who've published these studies say that their findings aren't enough evidence, on their own, to encourage drinking during pregnancy: The NBER study authors, for example, note that some children in their study did suffer from alcohol-related issues.
Researchers from theBJOGstudy aren't saying their work is definitive, either: "We need to understand more about how children's environments influence their behavioral and intellectual development," said study co-author Yvonne Kelly, co-director of the ESRC International Centre for Lifecourse Studies at University College London, in a . "While we have followed these children for the first seven years of their lives, further research is needed to detect whether any adverse effects of low levels of alcohol consumption in pregnancy emerge later in childhood."
The important thing to remember: There is no research that exists right now—at least not any Metz and Mark have seen—that's compelling enough to justify drinking during pregnancy. There is, however, plenty of evidence suggesting it can lead to negative consequences for children. And for the record, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends avoiding alcohol during pregnancy: No matter how little a pregnant woman consumes, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) can develop any time during a baby's gestation period—and, as theBJOGstudy authors suggest, the physical and cognitive disabilities associated with FASDs don't always appear immediately after birth.
So while new research is taking an interesting look at whether any amount of alcohol might be safe to consume during pregnancy (and if so, how much), there's really not enough evidence right now to know—and do you really want to experiment with your child's wellbeing? That's why, for now at least, it's best to follow the CDC's guidelines and avoid alcohol altogether while pregnant.
More fromWomen's Health:
Are You Drinking Too Much?
How to Fake Happy Hour When You're Pregnant
Another Study Links Cocktails and Breast
Video: Is Tap Water Safe to Drink? - Sharp Science
7 Design Tricks You Can Do With Mirrors
The 5:2 Fasting Diet: Revolutionary Approach Or Dangerous Fad
How to Make Zucchini Fries
This is The Small British Town You Haven’t Heard of–But Need to Visit
Fairness with baking soda Skin glow tips with baking soda
How to Draw Fantasy Figures
Why you may be applying your suncream incorrectly
Can You Eat Barley If Youre Gluten-Free
DIY Colorful Tassel Scarf
Daily Exercise Lowers Breast Cancer Risk
Readers 12 Most-Asked Nutrition Questions—Answered
DIGITAL HEALTH BRIEFING: Walmart, Humana in acquisition talks