Experts Question Controversial New Study About Moderate Drinking During Pregnancy

Doctors and children’s health experts are speaking out against a controversial study recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, which suggests that “light consumption” of alcohol during pregnancy may not be harmful to babies. The study flies in the face of the extensive body of research substantiating the dangers of drinking while pregnant.

The study in question tracked data from more than 11,000 children born between September 2000 and January 2002. Mothers in the study were categorized as those who never drank; light drinkers – one to two drinks per week; moderate drinkers – three to six drinks per week; or heavy drinkers – seven or more drinks per week. Children in the study were monitored to the age of five, at which time the researchers reported that there was little difference between the children of abstainers versus light drinkers. Critics of the study point out that it is too early to conclude whether or not the children in the study will have lasting problems, as the study has only tracked them to age five.

In an ABC News article, a physician and vice president with March of Dimes said he was worried that the study would be misinterpreted as a “green light” for mothers to drink while pregnant. “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,” said Dr. Michael Katz. “I worry about this because it could be over-interpreted, and over-interpreting data of this nature is probably dangerous.”

Further evidence of the dangers of drinking while pregnant has been revealed in another recent study conducted at Wayne State University School of Psychiatry. The study showed that exposure to alcohol during gestation definitely affects many different aspects of fetal brain development, including brain size, memory and information processing abilities.

According to the March of Dimes, fetal alcohol exposure interferes with proper brain development, causing problems that last a lifetime: physical and mental disabilities as well as emotional and behavioral problems. Drinking during pregnancy also increases the chances of miscarriage, pre-mature birth and stillbirth.

When it comes to drinking and pregnancy, the bottom line is clear. No amount of drinking can be considered safe during pregnancy, and the potential lifetime risks to the child are simply not worth it. Fetal alcohol exposure is the only 100% preventable birth defect. See the March of Dimes website to learn more.

Sources:
“A drink or two during pregnancy? Not so fast,” abcnews.com, October 6, 2010
“Drinking alcohol during pregnancy decreases your baby’s brain power,” ivanhoe.com

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