While everyone seems to be on the same page that binge drinking is definitely not a good idea while pregnant (it can lead to a miscarriage, premature birth, birth defects or developmental disabilities), some people have questioned whether or not light drinking is okay. The latest on that bandwagon is a new study out of Denmark claims that women who consume small amounts of alcohol while pregnant are actually healthier in many ways than women who don't. The study is a bit problematic, but first, let's go over the data.
Researchers examined more than 63,000 pregnant Danish women and found that those who admitted to being light drinkers during their pregnancies were more likely to exercise; have a body mass index in the normal range; eat more fish; and drink less soda compared to those who abstained from drinking. That's all fine and good (we love healthy moms!) but what does this have to do with the baby's health? A respected study from 2012 shows that as little as two drinks a week in the first trimester can increase a woman's risk of miscarriage. In my book, the risk of losing your baby entirely is far worse than the risk of a slightly higher body mass index!
In another study, researchers looked at 1,600 children in Denmark, considering the ability of the 5-year-olds to pay attention. The researchers found no negative effects on children whose mothers reported drinking up to eight drinks per week. But again, this data only focuses on the children who were born from those mothers who drank--those who survived the pregnancy. It's harsh to say, but true that they couldn't exactly survey those who didn't make it through until labor day.
The truth is that differences between individual women, such as genetic or metabolic differences, likely influence the effect of alcohol on a fetus. Whereas some research has suggested that drinking does not harm babies, according to an article in Live Science, researchers say "nothing causes problems in 100 percent of exposed babies." Because of that, most pediatricians and health organizations recommend pregnant women avoid alcohol entirely, as there's no sure way to determine how any one child might be affected.
I feel like this debate could go on a lifetime. While most doctors across the board say not to drink while you're pregnant (and Parents as a whole advises against it since any data saying it's "safe" just isn't strong enough), I've had friends whose doctors have prescribed a half glass of red wine when they've had constant Braxton Hicks contractions late in their pregnancy. The theory? The wine will relax them and therefore the muscles in the uterus, causing the annoying (not really painful) contractions to stop. Plus, there's thinking that alcohol is less dangerous in the third trimester than in the first half of the pregnancy.
Even though this study, and a brash new book now say there is no evidence drinking just a little while pregnant will harm your baby, I'm too much of a scaredy cat (which actually might be a good thing during pregnancy!) that I'd never take the risk. To think that something could go wrong with a child of mine over a drink that I really didn't need, would be too much guilt for me to bear. But like everything else in life, it's an individual decision, and one a woman needs to make for herself after being fully informed.
TELL US: Do you think it's ok to drink while pregnant? Have you been? Would you judge a woman if you saw her drinking a glass of wine at dinner?
Image of pregnant woman with wine courtesy of Shutterstock.