Now that most of the planet has finally accepted that alcohol and pregnancy should be kept as far away from each other as possible, it turns out that moderate pregnancy alcohol intake may actually have some benefits.
For the baby, not just for the mother who wants a drink.
A new study says mothers who drank lightly or moderately during pregnancy (equal to one glass of wine per day) had kids who are better behaved, less stressed and better adjusted than those who drank nothing at all. And this study was talking about drinking in the first trimester—the time when women are told the dangers of alcohol are at their most potent.
Huh? I thought for a second that this might be an April Fools joke. Then I realized it was June.
When you think about it, this isn’t totally inconsistent with the actual information we know about drinking while pregnant, just with the warnings. What we’ve long heard is that no safe level of pregnancy alcohol intake has been established. The total prohibition has always been a precaution. The threat of Fetal Alcohol Effect is real and scary, so it’s understandable that the medical community would want women to be extra careful to avoid it. But what if there really is a level at which alcohol is not only not dangerous, but beneficial to pregnancy and babies?
This study assessed the behavior of about 3,000 kids over 12 years, and found that children of moderate drinkers had higher scores in psychological function than those whose mothers did not drink. They were less likely to internalize, a symptom of depression, or act out aggressively. As in any study, it’s hard to parse out the behavior from the circumstances surrounding it. It may be that these kids fared better due to the alcohol directly, or that mothers with a certain temperament are more likely to be relaxed about drinking during pregnancy, and this relaxed temperament is helpful to children in other ways.
This is one study, and it’s not likely to change the current recommendation for abstinence. Even the study’s authors were not suggesting women run out for cocktails. But in a world where a pregnant woman is made to feel guilty for having a sip of wine on her birthday, I’d say this is news worth drinking to.