The Truth About Light Booze During Pregnancy: Is the Occasional Drink Okay?

Many women wonder how significant the consequences might be of occasionally drinking during pregnancy — a glass of wine or beer every now and then — and different people surely have offered their two cents on the matter, with physicians, family, and friends contradicting one another with their guidance. Since the effects of light drinking during pregnancy are neglected in studies — a serving or two of alcohol per week at most — most health organizations take a “better safe than sorry” approach when issuing recommendations on whether a pregnant women can have a small amount of alcohol during pregnancy. Whether or not this is the appropriate recommendation, it still leaves unanswered the question of if drinking any alcohol during pregnancy is harmful to the mother or baby.

A new review published in BMJ Open offers a bit of evidence on this under-researched topic, concluding that light drinking during pregnancy may slightly increase the risk of giving birth to an infant who is small for his or her gestational age, raising the risk by eight percent. Having up to four drinks per week — measured as eight grams of ethanol content per drink  — also raised the risk of preterm birth by ten percent. They did not find that light alcohol consumption affected the risk for miscarriage, developmental delays, cognitive impairment, or complications in pregnancy or birth.

The researchers felt that this small increase in risk was insignificant and that women who have consumed some alcohol during pregnancy shouldn’t fret over if their baby has been harmed. However, the authors’ conclusion was based on the limited body of data available regarding light drinking during pregnancy, so they deferred any final recommendations on the matter to an expectant mother’s health professional. Their main takeaway on from their research is that data demonstrating the harmful effects of light drinking is “surprisingly limited.”

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