No Evidence That Light Drinking In Pregnancy Harms Children's Development
A new study by the UK, tracked children under 5 years old, found no evidence that light drinking during pregnancy, that is, when their mothers drank no more than one or two units of alcohol a week, damage to their behavioral or intellectual development.
Nevertheless, the government advice that women should avoid alcohol during pregnancy is generally left in place.
You can read about the study led by University College London (UCL) and with the participation of three other research centers, the UK, online first article, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health. The first author Yvonne J. Kelly, Senior Lecturer of Epidemiology and Public Department of Health Department of health in the UCL.
Earlier studies that followed children up to 3 years have devised a similar conclusion that light drinking during pregnancy does not appear to harm the intellectual development of children's behavioral, but Kelly and his colleagues wanted to avoid possible delayed effects in older children.
To study the authors used data from a nationally representative prospective UK Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), which covers more than 11 500 children born between September 2000 and January 2002.
When the children reached 9 months of age, the researchers interviewed the mothers and to assess their alcohol use and other socio-economic factors.
Alcohol consumption were classified as: never drank, did not drink during pregnancy, light drinking during pregnancy (1 or two units a week), moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy (3 to 6 units per week, or from 3 to 5 any time), and binge / heavy drinking during pregnancy (7 or more units per week or 6 at one time).
This follows the UK government National Strategy alcohol categories that the authors chose to use because there is no generally accepted classification for scientific research.
Mothers were interviewed again when their children reached 3 years of age, this time they answered questions about their children's behavior.
When the children reached 5 years old, interviewed them at home and formally assessed their behavioral and congnitive development with the advantages and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ) and the British ability scales (BAS).
The results showed that: According to the information they gave in the interview, 6 percent of mothers were classified as never drinkers, 60 percent as not to drink during pregnancy, just under 26 percent of light drinkers, 5.5 percent were moderate drinkers, and 2.5 percent were heavy or binge drinking during pregnancy. Through the whole sample, boys are more likely than girls to have more general developmental problems. Boys are also more likely to have behavioral problems, to be more hyperactive and have problems with their peers. Nevertheless, girls were more likely to have emotional problems. Girls achieved higher average grades than boys on cognitive tests, which are covered by the vocabulary, picture similarities and seeing the picture of the building. Children of mothers who drank during pregnancy were more likely to be hyperactive and have behavioral and emotional problems than those whose mothers abstained during pregnancy. But in the case of children whose mothers drank only one or two units of alcohol per week during pregnancy, there is no evidence that they are related to their behavioral and intellectual development. The researchers also found that children born to mothers who drank one or two units a week during pregnancy were 30 percent less likely to have behavioral problems than children born to mothers who did not drink at all during pregnancy.
But Kelly told the press that when they looked more carefully for potential confounding factors, such as in the mother's education level, family income, parental discipline, and current drinking habits (study only score of drinking during pregnancy), the relationship was not as strong.
She said this shows that there are probably other factors that potentially have not been addressed, so that the overall message of the study there was no benefit or harm from light drinking, reports The Telegraph.
Kelly said that she and her colleagues have tried to convey the message that mothers should take on light drinking during pregnancy to improve the health of your child.
She said that they did not want to get into the "highly political and emotionally charged debate" around this topic, they just want to present their findings as scientists, which concluded that, compared with children of mothers who abstained from drinking alcohol during pregnancy:
"Children whose mothers reported drinking low levels of alcohol are not at increased risk of difficulties in the age of five."
Press Secretary of the Department of Health announced that they have not updated their guideline issued in 2007, indicating that pregnant women should avoid drinking alcoholic beverages in general, as well as women trying to conceive. It replaced the previous board, it's OK for women to drink one or two units a week.
She stressed that the update was to give women a consistent message, and are not based on any research. However, even after this latest study, it seems, the government is going to stick to a simple message that women should not drink during pregnancy or while trying to conceive.
"After evaluating the available evidence, we can not say with certainty that drinking during pregnancy is safe and not harm your child," she said in a statement, according to Press Association.
Current recommendations of NICE, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, is that women should avoid alcohol during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester.
Among other experts, the council also mixed, although all agree that drunkenness is wrong, whether a woman is pregnant or not.
Press Association reported that Janet Fyle, a midwife and a professional consultant at the Royal College of policies of Midwives, said she was concerned that women who read about this study, we can conclude that it is good to drink during pregnancy.
She said there was no "convincing evidence" that small amounts of alcohol, which can have a cumulative effect, does not harm the developing unborn child.
"Because of this, our advice to women is the same as if you are planning to become pregnant, or if you are pregnant, it is best to abstain from alcohol," said Fyle.
But the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Dr Tony Falconer, told BBC, that although I do not drink at all during pregnancy was a "safe choice", current evidence suggests drinking one or two units of alcohol a week was in order and that the basic message to Women should be, whether they are pregnant or not, "light drinking is good, but heavy drinking and should be avoided."
One of the problems related to the current debate is that people have different ideas about what constitutes a "light drinking".
It was a point made by Chris Sorek, executive director of alcohol awareness charity Drinkaware.
"There is a risk that if pregnant women take these studies as a green light to drink small amounts, they can rest on our laurels, drink more than they think they inadvertently harm their unborn child," he said.
It's easy to see how this can happen when someone tries to decipher the complexity of how many units there are in a "typical" drink.
In the UK, one unit of alcohol is defined as 10 milliliters of pure ethanol, alcohol in alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer and spirits.
This means that half-pint (284 ml) in 3.5 percent alcohol by volume (3.5% alcohol) beer is almost exactly one unit of alcohol, which is often cited in public health messages. However, in the UK, most beers are stronger than this, for example, half a pint of 5,2% lager almost 1.5 units.
There is a similar problem with wine. Small glass (125 ml) of 8% alcohol wine is one unit, again this is an example often cited in public health messages. But in Britain, pubs and restaurants often serve wine in 175 ml and 250 ml glasses of wine, and many more than 8% alcohol.
So, if you go to a bar and order a glass of white wine, you will most likely be given to medium size (175 ml) 12% alcohol wine, which is closer to 2 units of ethanol.
"Light drinking during pregnancy: still no increased risk for socioemotional difficulties or cognitive deficits at 5 years?" Yvonne J. Kelly, Amanda Sacker, Ron Gray, John Kelly, Dieter Wolke, Jenny Head Mary Quigley. J Epidemiol Community Health, published by First: 5 October 2010 DOI: 10.1136/jech.2009.103002