A Drink A Day OK For Pregnant Mothers

By Amir Khan on June 20, 2012 9:25 AM EDT

Beer
Pregnant women often eschew alcohol over fears that it will harm the baby, but a drink a day is perfectly fine (Photo: Creative Commons)

Pregnant women often eschew alcohol over fears that it will harm the baby, but according to a new study, published in the BJOG journal on Tuesday, a drink a day is perfectly fine. In fact, women can have up to eight a week without causing any problems.

"'These findings, which were unexpected, should bring some comfort to women if they were drinking before they realized they were pregnant," Ulrik Kesmodel, study author and researcher with Aarhus University Hospital, told the Daily Mail.

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Researchers followed over 1,600 women and recorded their alcohol consumption over the course of their pregnancy. Children whose mothers had between one and eight drinks per week showed no changes in IQ or brain function, but nine or more drinks was linked to a shorter attention span.

Heavy drinking during pregnancy is linked to fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition that causes growth, mental, and physical problems. The study's findings are at odds with the National Institutes of Health stance that no amount of alcohol is safe.

"When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, it easily passes across the placenta to the fetus. Because of this, drinking alcohol can harm the baby's development," the NIH says on its website. "A pregnant woman who drinks any amount of alcohol is at risk for having a child with fetal alcohol syndrome. No 'safe' level of alcohol use during pregnancy has been established."

Although the study found no harm in light to moderate drinking, many experts fear the findings will send the wrong message to women.

"These findings can easily send a very dangerous message to pregnant women," Bruce Goldman, director of Substance Abuse Services at the Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., told HealthDay.  "Women may underestimate and have difficulty acknowledging the frequency or quantity of alcohol consumed. Those suffering from alcoholism may attempt to rationalize that it is safe to drink moderately, something they may ultimately be unable to do."

Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, said there could be several development problems researchers weren't able to pick up.

"I would still caution women about drinking during their pregnancies," she told HealthDay. There may be subtle neurobehavioral changes that were not picked up in the study. Tests at an older age may detect larger differences."

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