Pregnant? This Bud's for You

British researchers have found that the night just might belong to Michelob for pregnant mothers. In part, at least.

…but just one or two, OK? Well, that’s what the results of a recent study looking at 11,513 children born in the UK between September 2000 and January 2002 suggest.

The study, published online this week in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Healthshows that light drinking (1 or 2 unites a week or at any one time) during pregnancy does not harm the behavioral or intellectual development of children. The study adds to a previous study that came to similar conclusions when looking at children age 3 years, with researchers quizzing moms about children’s behavior at age 3 years and then formally assessing behavioral and intellectual development at age 5 years, as they hoped to rule out any delayed “sleeper” effects in older children.

Though no widely agreed upon criteria exist for categorizing patterns of alcohol consumption, the research team chose to use the guidelines outlined in the British government’s National Alcohol Strategy: light (see above), moderate (3-6 units per week or 3-5 at any one time), and binge/heavy (7 unites per week or 6 at any one time). Using these standards, mothers were interviewed when the children were age 9 months regarding their drinking behaviors while pregnant and regarding any social and economic factors that could have impacted a child’s development.

The team, led by Dr. Yvonne Kelly, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, found that almost 6% of moms never drank, 60% abstained from alcohol while pregnant, roughly 26% were light drinkers during pregnancy, 5.5% were moderate drinkers while pregnant, and 2.5% were heavy or binge drinking during their pregnancy.

And although the children of mothers who were heavy drinkers while pregnant were more likely to be hyperactive and have behavioral and emotional problems than children of moms who abstained from alcohol while pregnant, no evidence was found to suggest that the intellectual and behavioral development was compromised in children whose moms were light drinkers when pregnant.

In fact, children of mothers who were light drinkers during pregnancy were 30% less likely to experience behavioral issues than children of mothers who abstained from alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Plus, children in the former group achieved higher cognitive scores (measured by vocabulary test, pinpointing visual similarities, and making patterns) than children in the latter group, ever after taking account of numerous influential factors.

What do you make of these findings? Would you ever tell a female patient who is pregnant or planning to become pregnant that it’s ok to be a light drinker while carrying a baby? What role do you feel alcohol consumption during a mother’s pregnancy has played among your patients who have behavioral issues? Share your thoughts and experiences by posting a comment below.