The Science Media Centre points to some new statistics on drinking during pregnancy. Given the alarming figures they highlighted, I was surprised to see that the actual data looked pretty good.
The analysis indicated a high prevalence of drinking, including binge drinking, among mums to be. The prevalence of drinking alcohol ranged from 20% to 80% in Ireland, and from 40% to 80% in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
Across all countries, factors associated with alcohol use included smoking during pregnancy and Caucasian ethnicity.
“Our data suggest that alcohol use during pregnancy is prevalent and socially pervasive in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia”, conclude the authors.
Wow. Sounds pretty terrible. But here’s the paper. Table 4 has the main results.
I reviewed many, many studies, but I focused in on ones that compare women who drank lightly or occasionally during pregnancy to those who abstained. The best of these studies are ones that separate women into several groups—for example: no alcohol, a few drinks a week, one drink a day, more than one drink a day—and that limit the focus to women who say they never had a binge drinking episode. With these parameters, we can really hone in on the question of interest: What is the impact of having an occasional drink, assuming that you never overdo it?
I summarize two studies in detail in my book: one looking at alcohol consumption by pregnant women and behavior problems for the resulting children up to age 14 and one looking at alcohol in pregnancy and test performance at age 14. Both show no difference between the children of women who abstain and those who drink up to a drink a day. I summarize two others in less detail: one looking at IQ scores at age 8 and a more recent one looking at IQ scores at age 5. These also demonstrate no impact of light drinking on test scores.
I argue that based on this data, many women may feel comfortable with an occasional glass of wine—even up to one a day—in later trimesters. (More caution in the first trimester—no more than two drinks a week—because of some evidence of miscarriage risk.)
- Drinking and Pregnancy (referencing this study)
- Noble lies: Alcohol and pregnancy edition.
- No safe level?
- Expecting Better