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Moderate pregnancy drinking safe on babies
[Posted: Wed 20/06/2012 by Gillian Tsoi www.irishhealth.com]
Moderate drinking in early pregnancy has no adverse effects on the brain functioning of young children, according to new research in Denmark.
However, high levels of alcohol intake from expecting mothers were linked with a lower attention span among their five-year-olds.
Danish researchers analysed the effects of low, moderate, high and binge-drinking of pregnant mothers on their children at five-years-old. The women were recruited from the Danish National Birth Cohort at their first antenatal visit.
Low average weekly alcohol consumption was defined as one to four drinks per week, moderate as five to eight drinks per week and high levels as nine or more drinks per week.
Binge drinking was defined as intake of five or more drinks on a single occasion. Participants who did not drink during pregnancy were included as the unexposed reference group.
The definition of a drink in these papers comes from the Danish National Board of Health, which states one standard drink is equal to 12 grams of pure alcohol.
However, the amount of alcohol in a standard drink varies significantly from country to country. In Ireland, the volume of alcohol in a drink is measured in units and one unit of alcohol is defined as 7.9 grams.
Over 1,600 women took part in the studies and had an average maternal age was 30 years. Just 50% were first-time mothers, 12% were single and 31% reported smoking during pregnancy.
The experts looked at the effects of alcohol on IQ, attention span, and executive functions such as planning, organisation, and self-control in five-year-old children.
Overall, they found that low to moderate weekly drinking in early pregnancy had no significant effect on neurodevelopment of children aged five years, nor did binge-drinking.
When it came to children's IQ and executive functions, no differences in test performance were observed between children whose mothers reported one to four or five to eight drinks per week in pregnancy, compared to children of abstaining mothers.
However, one finding showed that high levels of alcohol, intake of nine or more drinks per week, was associated with lower attention span amongst five year olds.
The study authors recommended that it remains the most conservative advice for women to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy, however, small amounts may not present serious concern.
The findings were published in a series of papers in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
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