“How much can you drink while pregnant?” – Possibly the most common question from first-time moms.
We all enjoy a good drink now and then to unwind and relax, and who needs extra relaxation more than a mom-to-be (Or a mom-right-now for that matter)? Unfortunately it has been common knowledge for several decades now that drinking alcohol while pregnant can be very dangerous for your baby.
But when it comes to drinking while pregnant, just how much is too much? Depending on who you ask, you may get a vast number of responses to this question.
“A small glass of wine is fine.”
“Just a sip won’t hurt you.”
“My mom drank while she was pregnant with me and I’m a rocket scientist.”
It’s important to remember that all of these could be true. As with most things in nature, nothing is 100%. There are certainly outliers for every affect.
But what does the science say? Just how much is that glass of Merlot going to affect your child? We’ll answer these questions and more below.
What We Know For Sure.
There is no controversy over the dangers of heavy drinking while pregnant.
Study after study has shown heavy alcohol use– which, depending on the study can range between 30-50+ grams of alcohol daily (Think: 4-6 beers, 3+ glasses of wine etc)– is strongly associated with:
- Decreased birth weight.
- Early delivery.
- Spontaneous abortion.
- Decreased cognitive function in child.
- Increased anti-social behavior in child.
- Increased chances for serious pregnancy complications.
And a multitude of other issues. For more information on the affects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome visit the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome website.
The negative effects of heavy drinking while pregnant has been so extensively studied and is so widely accepted that we won’t spend any more time on it.
What We’re Pretty Sure About.
While excessive drinking is a well known risk factor for pregnancies, light drinking is not quite as well established.
There have been a number of studies conducted on the subject using varying methodologies and of varying quality.
In cases such as these it is useful to look at a totality of evidences across the spectrum of studies conducted. When we do this we see a trend emerge.
In the majority of studies low (Equivalent to roughly one glass of wine or less per day and no more than ~3 per week) alcohol consumption has shown either no correlation with adverse outcomes, very slight correlation with adverse outcomes, or, in some cases a slight correlation to more positive outcomes.
Keep in mind the studies we reviewed did control for other factors that could have confounded the data.
Of course, there are a handful of studies that contradict these findings.
In one such study, conducted conducted by the Department of Pediatrics at Wayne State University in Michigan researchers found a correlation between any alcohol exposure in pregnancy and increased expression of anti-social behavior in childhood.
The honest answer to the question of whether light drinking is safe during pregnancy is “We don’t know for sure, but the risk is likely dose dependent and mitigated by other lifestyle factors.”
It’s a mother’s choice what to do with this information. As always, consult with your OB/GYN before making a critical decision such as whether or not to abstain from alcohol during your pregnancy.