Moderate Drinking During Pregnancy May Not Be As Bad As You Think

It seems like every few months a new study comes out challenging current notions about whether it's OK to drink during pregnancy. While the old old wisdom allowed for a boozy free-for-all and today's guidelines call for total abstinence, the future of alcohol advice for expectant mothers will likely hew closer to the "everything in moderation" front.

The latest support for this stance comes from a long-term Danish study. After analyzing more than 100,000 moms, University of Copenhagen psychologist Janni Niclasen found those who drank moderately while pregnant wound up with better-behaved and more emotionally well-adjusted seven year olds.

“At first sight this makes no sense, since alcohol during pregnancy is not seen as beneficial to child behavior," Niclasen said. And yet here it was: Drinking up to one glass of wine per week while pregnant didn't emotionally harm children. In fact, these children seemed better off emotionally and behavior-wise.

“At first sight this makes no sense, since alcohol during pregnancy is not seen as beneficial to child behavior."

So what gives? Lifestyle factors. Moms who drank moderately while pregnant tended to be the most well-educated and have the healthiest habits overall, Niclasen said. Their children likely wound up well-adjusted not because of the alcohol, but in spite of it. As a Royal College of Midwives policy advisor Janet Fyle told the UK Telegraph : “You don’t get well-adjusted children by drinking alcohol during pregnancy.” And, some have critiqued the study for not measuring variables such as the children's attachment and intelligence.

Still, the fact that the kids are OK says something. Public health campaigns tend to make it seem like one glass of wine during pregnancy and you'll give birth to a three-eyed baby with dyslexia and ADHD. And more and more research is showing that this just simply isn't the case.