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The Safe Number of Drinks in Pregnancy: New Research

Alcohol and pregnancy what is safe?

Evidence for the safe happy medium?

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about a new finding that may help us understand why some women can drink safely in pregnancy with no negative outcomes to their baby, while others can not.

Today I read a study published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry that may help us narrow in on safe guidelines for pregnant women when it comes to drinking.

The researchers started this study in 1982, tracking women in pregnancy and then as their children grew. Here’s what they found about the limits of safe drinking — and how this compares to other alcohol-in-pregnancy studies: 

The group of 592 children were evaluated at 8 and 18 months, 3, 6, 10, 14, and 16 years of age. The researchers found that if mom had 1 or more drinks per day (of beer, wine, or liquor) during the first trimester of pregnancy, her adolescent was more likely to be diagnosed with a conduct disorder (a severe behavior disorder in which the child shows serious aggression towards animals, siblings or friends, destroys property, steals etc.). This effect held even after factoring out mom’s psychology, SES, and other prenatal influences.

The finding interests me when I compare it to one released last year that studied 11,500 women and showed that those who had 1-2 drinks per week in pregnancy had healthy children — even slightly better outcomes in certain areas like behavior and cognition than those who drank nothing.

Is this scientific backup for the reasonable, happy-medium, everything-in-moderation stance that many moms already feel confident in when they’re pregnant?  1-2 drinks per week is perfectly fine, but 1 or more every day, especially in the first trimester, is risky? (Of course that’s not my prescription, that’s just what I’m gleaning from the data).

Of course, when we do studies like these researchers are measuring outcomes with broad strokes — asking questions of parents and teachers and observing a child’s visible, outward behavior. But that doesn’t by any stretch put the complex alcohol-to-fetus question under a microscope.

Still, when I was pregnant, my approach was to use actual food as my guide (my favorite “pregnancy” book was The Omnivore’s Dilemma). In my estimation, reaching for an avocado instead of a Zone bar was the most important thing — forget the fussy, overly anxious approach and just eat real food. In the scheme of things, that seemed much more powerful than whether I had an occasional drink of wine.

What was your approach to food and alcohol in pregnancy?

Image: flickr

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