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05-10-2010 | General practice | Article

Light drinking in pregnancy may do no harm


Free abstract

Light drinking during pregnancy does not harm the child's later behavioural or intellectual development, research suggests.

The study found that children born to women who drank lightly while pregnant (up to 1 or 2 units a week) were no more likely to have poor socioemotional or cognitive development at the age of 5 years than were children whose mothers abstained during pregnancy.

The findings are consistent with the researchers' previous study of 3 year olds and would appear to counter a possible 'sleeper' effect, whereby developmental problems due to maternal drinking in pregnancy emerge later in childhood.

For the current study, Dr Yvonne Kelly (University College London) and team studied data for 11,513 children in the UK Millenium Cohort Study who were born between September 2000 and January 2002.

They found that, at approximately age 5 years, boys and girls born to women who drank lightly during pregnancy were 33% less likely to have clinically relevant behavioural and cognitive problems overall and 27% less likely to have hyperactivity specifically than those whose mothers usually drank alcohol but stopped during pregnancy.

Both associations were weakened after adjusting for potential confounders and mediating factors, Dr Kelly and team report in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The researchers conclude: "The findings of this paper and our previous work suggest that up to the age of 5 years there is no increased risk of poor socioemotional or cognitive developmental outcomes in children born to mothers who drank not more than 1 or 2 units of alcohol per week during pregnancy."

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Caroline Price