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Light Drinking in Pregnancy Does Not Seem to Affect Offspring's Behavior, Cognition — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
October 6, 2010

Light Drinking in Pregnancy Does Not Seem to Affect Offspring's Behavior, Cognition

Patients may ask about a study suggesting that children of mothers who drink lightly during pregnancy are not at increased risk for behavioral or cognitive difficulties. The study appears online inthe Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

U.K. researchers asked roughly 11,500 women about their drinking habits during pregnancy and then assessed their offspring's development at age 5. They found that children of mothers who drank 1–2 units per week while pregnant were at no greater risk for behavioral problems (e.g., hyperactivity) or cognitive deficits (e.g., trouble with vocabulary) than those whose mothers abstained during pregnancy (but drank at other times).

Asked to comment, Dr. Timothy Naimi, an alcohol expert with Boston University School of Medicine, said: "These findings are highly implausible, given that ethanol is the world's leading fetal neurotoxin. This and related studies are hopelessly confounded by socioeconomic factors since those with higher socioeconomic status are far less likely to have children with behavioral or cognitive problems and are the most likely to drink small amounts in pregnancy." He added: "Obviously, drinking any alcohol in pregnancy is discouraged, and there is no safe level of ethanol when it comes to the developing fetal brain."

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