Study suggests light drinking in pregnancy not linked to development problems in childhood

April 16, 2013, Wiley

Light drinking during pregnancy is not linked to adverse behavioural or cognitive outcomes in childhood, suggests a new study published today (17 April) in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

This study collated data from the Millennium Cohort Study, a national study of infants born in the UK between 2000-2002, to assess whether light drinking (up to two units of alcohol per week) in pregnancy was linked to unfavourable in 7-year-old children.

Previous research has linked heavy during pregnancy with health and developmental problems in children, however, the effects of low level consumption remains unclear.

Researchers, from University College London, used information on 10,534 7-year-olds from home-visit interviews and questionnaires completed by to identify social and emotional behaviour (such as hyperactivity, attention or conduct problems). The children were also tested for in maths, reading and .

Groups who made up the sample were mothers who never drank (12.7%), those who did not drink in pregnancy but otherwise did drink (57.1%), those who were light drinkers (23.1%) and those who drank more during pregnancy (7.2%).

This study focused on the results from children born to mothers who were light drinkers and those who abstained from alcohol during pregnancy.

Children born to light drinkers were shown to have more favourable (lower) scores compared with those born to mothers who didn't drink during pregnancy. However, the difference was not enough to be significant, except in the case of boys born to light drinkers who had slightly fewer reported .

Furthermore, children born to light drinkers were also found to have more favourable (higher) cognitive test scores compared to children born to non-drinkers, but these differences mostly lost , except for reading and spatial skills in boys.

The paper concludes that while children born to light drinkers appeared to have more favourable developmental profiles compared to those born to mothers who did not drink during pregnancy, after statistical adjustment these differences largely disappeared.

Professor Yvonne Kelly, co-director, ESRC International Centre for Lifecourse Studies (ICLS) at University College London, and co-author of the study said:

"There appears to be no increased risk of negative impacts of light drinking in pregnancy on behavioural or cognitive development in 7-year-old children.

"We need to understand more about how children's environments influence their behavioural and intellectual development. While we have followed these children for the first seven years of their lives, further research is needed to detect whether any adverse effects of low levels of alcohol consumption in pregnancy emerge later in childhood."

John Thorp, BJOG Deputy-Editor-in-Chief, added:

"These findings, that drinking not more than one or two units of alcohol per week during pregnancy is not linked to developmental problems in early-mid childhood, are consistent with current UK Department of Health guidelines.

"However, it remains unclear as to what level of alcohol consumption may have adverse outcomes so this should not alter current advice and if women are worried about consumption levels the safest option would be to abstain from drinking during pregnancy."

Explore further: Low/moderate drinking in early pregnancy has no adverse effects on children aged 5: research

More information: dx.doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12246

Related Stories

Low/moderate drinking in early pregnancy has no adverse effects on children aged 5: research

June 19, 2012
Low and moderate weekly alcohol consumption in early pregnancy is not associated with adverse neuropsychological effects in children aged five, suggests a series of papers published today in BJOG: An International Journal ...

Children born after unplanned pregnancy are slower to develop

July 26, 2011
Children born after unplanned pregnancies tend to have a more limited vocabulary and poorer non-verbal and spatial abilities; however this is almost entirely explained by their disadvantaged circumstances, according to a ...

Drinking during pregnancy increases risk of premature birth

April 11, 2011
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and low birth weight. But there are conflicting reports about how much alcohol, if any, it is safe for a pregnant woman ...

Recommended for you

Rise in preterm births linked to clinical intervention

January 18, 2018
Research at the University of Adelaide shows preterm births in South Australia have increased by 40 percent over 28 years and early intervention by medical professionals has resulted in the majority of the increase.

New report calls into question effectiveness of pregnancy anti-nausea drug

January 17, 2018
Previously unpublished information from the clinical trial that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration relied on to approve the most commonly prescribed medicine for nausea in pregnancy indicates the drug is not effective, ...

New study finds 'baby brain' is real, but the cause remains mysterious

January 15, 2018
So-called "baby brain" refers to increased forgetfulness, inattention, and mental "fogginess" reported by four out of five pregnant women. These changes in brain function during pregnancy have long been recognised in midwifery ...

Sleep quality improves with help of incontinence drug

January 12, 2018
A drug used to curtail episodes of urinary incontinence in women also improves quality of sleep, a researcher at the Stanford University School of Medicine reports.

Frozen embryos result in just as many live births in IVF

January 10, 2018
Freezing and subsequent transfer of embryos gives infertile couples just as much of a chance of having a child as using fresh embryos for in vitro fertilization (IVF), research from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Adelaide, ...

Study suggests air pollution breathed in the months before and after conception increases chance of birth defects

January 8, 2018
A team of researchers with the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children's Hospital has found evidence that indicates that pre-and post-pregnant women living in an area with air pollution are at an increased risk of ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.