A new series of studies from Denmark finds that women can drink up to eight alcoholic drinks a week in early pregnancy with no effects on intelligence, attention, or self-control of children at age five.
Heavy drinking (more than nine glasses a week) during pregnancy was associated with children at age five having a lower attention span than the others, although their IQs weren't any worse than the kids of women who drank less.
The findings of five papers were published on June 20 in the journal BJOG. A standard drink was defined as being equal to 12 grams of pure alcohol.
While the researchers aren't encouraging drinking, many doctors still advise pregnant women to avoid alcohol altogether. Drinking during pregnancy, particularly heavy drinking, has been linked to fetal alcohol syndrome, which causes serious developmental problems in children.
"I will need more convincing before I change my recommendation. Only a very small number of women participated in the studies (1,628), the average age was roughly 31 years old," writes Howard LeWine, MD and chief medical editor of Harvard Health Publications. "In addition, babies born of these pregnancies were evaluated at five years...this is just one snapshot of these children's development."
This isn't the first study, however, to suggest that light drinking during pregnancy is OK. In 2010, another group of researchers reported no cognitive problems in the five-year-olds of mothers who enjoyed a glass or two of alcohol every now and then.