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New Findings about Alcohol Abuse During Pregnancy


There has been some questioning on whether or not the prenatal exposure to alcohol effects the mother’s unborn baby. Two recently completed studies — one from the UK and another from Australia — recently revealed surprising information. Data and research continues to point to large amount of alcohol consumption contributing to severe developmental issues as well as other mental health issues. A small amount of alcohol intake (defined as 10g of alcohol per week or per occasion) did not make any difference. However, those who were classified as “heavy” and “very heavy drinkers” (70g-140g of alcohol per week) did negatively impact the healthy development of their babies. These recent studies define “light drinking” as consumption of 10g alcohol per week and confirm that such light drinking has little to no effect on the developing fetus.

In the aforementioned study, information about maternal alcohol consumption was collected for each trimester separately as well as the three months after the birth. Babies of the mothers who were light drinkers during pregnancy were evaluated at age 5.At age 5, they did not show any significant evidence of impairment in ability or abnormal behavioral and emotional problems. They proved to have cognitive ability equal to that of their peers. In terms of babies from heavily drinking mothers, particularly male children, their results showed lower than average behavioral abilities. Female children of heavy drinkers had less clear and less consistent test results, so a correlation was not able to be made between a mother’s drinking during pregnancy and the development of female children.

Another recent study validated the first studies findings — a small amount of alcohol intake(7g per week) did not have any effects on the on the developing fetus and there was no correlation between prenatal exposure to light alcohol consumption and birth defects. While drinking during pregnancy is not meant to be cosigned, research does reveal that there is no harm done to the developing fetus by drinking lightly and/or occasionally. There fact that no correlation was able to be drawn between low prenatal exposure to alcohol and birth defects is surprising but true. Moderate to heavy drinking (classified as 70g-140g per week) in the first trimester was found to have a four to six ratio for birth defects. Thus, as predicted, unborn children of heavy drinkers are at the highest risk for fetal alcohol syndrome.

Similar findings were found via a bootstrap analysis. Heavy amounts of prenatal exposure to alcohol is directly correlated with serious developmental defects such as low birth weight, attention deficit and behavioral problems, learning disorders, an array of growth and developmental issues, as well as heart problems. I think parents should be cautious about the findings of each study, however. It’s not worth taking a gamble on a child’s health and development over a glass of Chardonnay. The cost/benefit analysis of taking a drink doesn’t seem worth it to me. But for those expecting mothers who absolutely can’t go without, at least they can sleep easier with the knowledge that light drinking will not have a detrimental effect on the fetus.

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