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Small Alcohol Consumption in Pregnancy Won't Hurt Baby

Nov 24, 2014 08:09 PM EST

We should be clear: researchers are in no way saying that it's okay to regularly drink during pregnancy. However, if an expecting mother very occasionally drinks a wine cooler or takes part in a Champagne toast during her child's nine months, she won't be dooming her child to a heightened risk of an adverse birth outcome.

That's at least according to a study recently published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology, which may give some expecting mothers a little peace-of-mind when worrying about their small indulgences.

Of course, it has long been known that moderate to heavy alcohol consumption can harm a child in utero, raising the risk of adverse birth outcomes ranging from low birth weight or preterm delivery all the way to death. This is why many health professionals will be quick to recommend that pregnant women and even women trying to get pregnant avoid alcohol entirely, in a "better safe than sorry" kind of stance.

However, many women may not realize they are pregnant early on, and may have a habit of regularly drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol. This new study wanted to find out more about the risks for this group.

The study features an analysis of alcohol consumption and birth outcome for nearly 4,500 women and their babies.

About 30 percent of women in the study reported consuming alcohol - predominantly wine - during their first month of pregnancy. This consumption was relatively low, with the average drinking participant reporting only about one glass of wine per week in the first month of pregnancy.

The researchers not only found no evidence of heightened risk for the children of these drinkers, when compared to the non-drinkers, but they also saw instances where this risk of adverse outcome was actually lower among the children of mothers who occasionally drank very low amounts alcohol up to the third trimester.

However, "more research is needed to investigate this contradiction" of common medical knowledge, senior author Michael B. Bracken, at the Yale School of Public Health, quickly added in a statement.

"Whether these associations of reduced risk are due to healthier lifestyles of women consuming low to moderate alcohol and especially wine cannot be fully ruled out," Bracken added, referring to an increasing body of evidence that regular consumption of red wine may be good for human health.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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