Studies till date have ridiculed drinking during pregnancy for its irreversible health effects on the unborn baby’s health. However, findings of a new study suggest that moderate drinking during pregnancy may not harm baby’s neurodevelopment.
According to the findings of the study conducted by the University of Bristol’s School of Social and Community Medicine, children whose mothers drank 3 to 7 glasses of alcohol a week, during pregnancy, did not score low on foetal neurodevelopment as compared to their counterparts whose mothers did not drink at all.
The study tracked 6,915 10-year-olds born between 1991 and 1992 in addition to their parents. All participants were members of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).
Mothers were required to provide details of their alcohol consumption levels at 18 weeks of pregnancy and 47 months after pregnancy.
70 percent of the mothers did not drink during pregnancy. While one in four reportedly drank between one and two drinks (low consumption) a week, others took three to seven drinks (moderate consumption).
About 4.5 percent of mothers drank seven or more drinks (high consumption) a week.
To check if mother’s alcohol consumption has resulted in foetal neurodevelopment issues in kids, 10-year-olds underwent a 20-minute balance assessment test that included dynamic balance test, static balance eyes open and static balance eyes closed.
Children who featured amongst the top in the balance assessment test were most likely to be born to mothers who consumed between low to moderate levels of alcohol during and after pregnancy.
“When we compared moderate drinkers with women who didn’t drink at all we actually found that in relation to a number of different tests of balance the children of moderate drinkers appeared to do better,” Professor John Macleod, from the University of Bristol’s School of Social and Community Medicine, who led the study said.
“However, we also found that the women who moderately drank compared to women who didn’t drink tended to be more middle class.”
Researchers found that mothers who were more affluent and better educated were more likely to drink in moderation.
“We recognize that this is useful research,” professional policy adviser Janet Fyle said. “However, there is also a large amount of evidence suggesting that the cumulative effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy can harm the developing foetus.
“Our advice continues to be that for women who are trying to conceive or those that are pregnant it is best to avoid alcohol.” But if women still choose to drink, “to minimize the risk to the baby they should not drink more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week and should not get drunk,” researchers advised.
The findings of the study are reported in the journal BMJ Open.