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Pregnancy drinking may not harm

Wednesday June 20th, 2012

New research has failed to find significant effects on young children from their mothers drinking small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy, it was announced today.

The findings come from a series of studies conducted in Denmark.

The papers all appear in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and focus on the child's brain development at five years of age. They looked at IQ, attention span, and processes such as planning, organisation, and self-control.

Participants in the studies were recruited during early pregnancy.

The 1,628 women lived in Denmark and had an average age of 31 years. About 30 per cent smoked during pregnancy. Researchers used the Danish definition of one 'drink', that is, 12 grams of pure alcohol. This contrasts with the UK definition of a unit as eight grams of pure alcohol.

Researchers said low, moderate, and binge drinking in early pregnancy had no significant effect. But there was a suggestion that nine or more drinks per week may be linked to a lower attention span at five years old.

Researcher Ulrik Schiøler Kesmodel, a gynaecologist at Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark, said: "High prenatal exposure to alcohol has consistently been associated with adverse effects on neurodevelopment. Areas such as intelligence, attention and executive functions have been found to be particularly vulnerable.

"However, less is known about the effects of low to moderate, weekly average consumption levels and binge drinking.

"Our findings show that low to moderate drinking is not associated with adverse effects on the children aged five."

British experts urged women not to use the findings as an excuse to drink large amounts of alcohol during pregnancy.

"These findings suggest low to moderate drinking has no significant effect on children aged five," said Patrick O'Brien of the UK's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

"However, this does not mean that women can use this as an excuse to indulge in more than the recommended amount in the UK.

"We advise that if a woman falls pregnant, she should abstain from alcohol. However, if she would like to have a drink, the current evidence shows that one or two units, once or twice a week, is acceptable after 12 weeks of pregnancy."

Journal editor John Thorp added: "More research is needed to look at long term effects of alcohol consumption on children.The best advice is to choose not to drink, however small amounts have not been shown to be harmful."

The effect of different alcohol drinking patterns in early to mid pregnancy on the child's intelligence, attention, and executive function. Kesmodel, U. et al. BJOG June 20 2012 doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2012.03393.x.

Tags: Child Health | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Drug and Alcohol Abuse | Europe | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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