Pregnancy comes with some definite rules on things to avoid – like certain types of seafood and heavy lifting – but the rules regarding wine aren’t quite as clear. Is it okay to enjoy an occasional glass, or should you stay away from it altogether? Research studies have produced results that support both sides of the issue, which confuses matters even more.
We’ll take a look at some of the harmful effects associated with drinking while pregnant, along with a couple of findings that actually support light drinking during pregnancy.
The Dark Side of Wine Consumption
Medical professionals advise against drinking wine and other types of alcohol while pregnant because of the risk of its harmful effects on the developing fetus. One of the biggest concerns is fetal alcohol syndrome, which is associated with low birth weight, vision and hearing problems, cognition problems, behavioral issues and problems with sleeping and eating.
How much wine would it take to cause these effects? There’s no clear answer to that, which is why pregnant women are warned to avoid alcohol in general. According to the National Institutes of Health, drinking seems to cause the most harm during the first trimester, although it can also be harmful at any point during pregnancy.
If you had a glass of wine or two before finding out you were pregnant, don’t panic. A low amount, even in the first trimester, isn’t likely to cause problems – but you should still share your concerns with your doctor.
Of course, binge drinking is another story. Researchers conducting a meta-analysis of several studies on the developmental effects of drinking during pregnancy found that binge drinking caused cognition problems in children between 6 months and 14 years old. The analysis also found that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol during pregnancy was linked to behavioral problems in children between 9 months and 5 years old.
Benefits to Drinking Wine in Recent Studies
While common medical advice for pregnant women is to avoid alcohol, a couple of studies found that drinking might actually provide some benefits – or at least not lead to developmental problems in childhood.
University of Copenhagen researcher Janni Niclasen conducted a study on drinking during pregnancy and found improved behavioral and emotional development among 7-year-old children born to mothers who drank small amounts of alcohol. According to her findings, these children fared better in these areas than those born to mothers who did not drink at all while pregnant.
Researchers at the University College London also looked at the effects that drinking had on children born to mothers who drank while pregnant. Their findings showed that light drinking didn’t appear to have a negative impact on these 7 year olds’ development. However, the researchers did note that there is still no definitive amount of wine (or other types of alcohol) that is considered “safe” during pregnancy.
Wine and Pregnant Mothers: Mixed Research Results
Before pouring a celebratory glass of red wine, there are a few things to consider. First, the analysis that showed improved emotional development in children should be looked at more closely. It’s important to note that these beneficial effects were mainly found in mothers who were already healthy and well-educated. Also, as a University of Copenhagen critique of Niclasen’s work points out, the study didn’t take certain psychological factors, like mother-child attachment, into consideration.
What does this mean for you? Use your best judgment and discuss the issue with your doctor. At the very least, a small amount of wine might be fine to have very occasionally, but talk to your doctor first and ask how often you can have one.
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