Is it OK To Drink (a Little) When Pregnant? New Study Says Yes


Nearly every day, an editor at iVillage sent me a new medical study that I needed to digest and write a short blog about in plain English. Within a few hour deadline, I also needed to find at least one expert to comment. This is just one example.




A new headline-making study says it’s OK for a pregnant woman to have a drink or two. The British study, which looked at babies and toddlers whose moms drank moderately — just one or two drinks per week — when they were pregnant, showed that they aren’t at any greater risk for developing behavioral or cognitive problems than children whose moms didn’t drink at all. The kids were assessed at home at 9 months and 3 and 5 years.

But hold off on the three martini lunches. Not every doctor agrees with the study’s findings, and the American Congress of Gynecologists (ACOG) still stands by its recommendation that pregnant women not drink at all — mainly because there has been no “safe” level of alcohol consumption determined.

“ACOG reiterates its long-standing position that no amount of alcohol consumption can be considered safe during pregnancy,” the organization said in a press release. “Maternal alcohol use is the leading known cause of mental retardation and is a preventable cause of birth defects. Children exposed to alcohol in utero are at risk for growth deficiencies, facial deformities, central nervous impairment, behavioral disorders and impaired intellectual development.”

Clearly, it’s an ongoing debate and a topic that medical professionals and moms-to-be alike feel strongly about — no matter what side they’re on. More than one mom on our message boards said they’ve indulged in a sip or two; one even said, her midwive recommended a drink at the end of her pregnancy to help her relax. And one doctor we talked to agrees that one drink — very, very occasionally — is okay, just like the new study showed.

“I personally recommend complete abstinence of alcohol intake to my patients,” says John Al-Jamal, MD, an ob/gyn at Caritas Medical Group in Massachusetts. “However, I allow one glass of wine during a special occasion after the first trimester, but never hard liquor and never more than one glass.”

But others quoted publicly, such as Timothy Naimi, MD, say that how much money a family has must be seriously taken into consideration. Dr. Naimi, an alcohol expert with Boston University School of Medicine, was critical of the British study in JournalWatch, saying, “These findings are highly implausible, given that ethanol is the world’s leading fetal neurotoxin. This and related studies are hopelessly confounded by socioeconomic factors, since those with higher socioeconomic status are far less likely to have children with behavioral or cognitive problems and are the most likely to drink small amounts in pregnancy.”

So bottom line? Talk to your doctor before taking a sip – but know that it may be safe to steal a few sips once in a great while at the end of your pregnancy. (And you probably didn’t need us, or this study, to tell you that.)

This article was originally published on iVillage.

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