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Pregnant? Have a Drink!

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Ronda Kaysen: If there's one thing every pregnant woman knows, it's to keep off the booze until the baby comes. That rule is so ingrained in our collective psyche that complete strangers will gasp in horror if they see a pregnant woman sip some bubbly at a wedding.

pregnant woman holding wine glass

But new research has found that knocking back a glass of Chardonnay when you're pregnant may actually benefit your baby. The kids of light and moderate drinkers (those who had one drink a night or two to six drinks a week) were better behaved, less aggressive and less prone to depression than the kids of teetotalers, the research showed. (The researchers are talking about moms who drank during the oh-so-tender first trimester, when even the most laid-back of mamas tends to abstain.)

"Given what we know about the dangers of frequent heavy consumption of alcohol in pregnancy, these results may initially appear surprising," Dr. Monique Robinson from the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Australia told Reuters. "However, we need to be cautious about generalizing the effects of a heavy alcohol intake to a light consumption of alcohol. They are not equal."

The study followed more than 2,000 Australian kids every two years from the time they were 2 until they were 14. It's not clear whether being exposed to alcohol in utero is what made the kids happier, or the fact that a mom who drinks while pregnant already has a more laid-back personality -- and thus tends to have a mellower kid. (Or maybe the alcohol mellows the mom, resulting in a mellower kid ....) Whatever the reason, "This positive behavior meant that the children of light and moderate drinkers had less emotional and behavioral problems through childhood and adolescence," said Robinson.

This is interesting news. For years, the prevailing wisdom from doctors has been that since we don't know how much alcohol is too much, pregnant women shouldn't drink any. This rule always seemed a little Draconian to me -- especially since many of our mothers drank moderately while pregnant and, by and large, we turned out OK.

When I was pregnant with my son in Mexico, my doctor there told me, "No more than a drink a day" -- a far more lax approach than what doctors say here. At the time, I thought the advice was for my benefit alone. It never occurred to me that it might actually be good for a baby to get a little booze in utero. If nothing else, this news should make moms who drank before they knew they were pregnant breathe a sigh of relief.

What do you think? Will this new study change how you view alcohol consumption during pregnancy?

next: Did Murderer Mom Suffer from Postpartum Psychosis?
5 comments so far | Post a comment now
Wendi June 11, 2010, 9:12 AM

I think this study is nuts! I would NEVER drink while I was pregnant. I am so confused as to why a woman who chooses to have a child has such a problem putting her drinking on hold for the time she is pregnant. Did this study ever think that maybe the reason the kids are mellow is because their brain cells are being killed off?? I just don’t think it is worth the risk to the child just to enjoy a drink.

Anonymous June 11, 2010, 11:26 AM

Americans need to relax and stop gasping when they see a pregnant woman with a tiny bit of wine in her glass. In Europe, they say a small glass of wine or half a pint of beer is totally harmless to your baby in utero. I agree with this study; I’m pregnant, I eat healthy, take my prenatals, exercise, and yea, occasionally enjoy a sip of wine. Does that really make me a terrible mother? I don’t think so.

kpaige June 13, 2010, 12:35 PM

I love this article. I dont necessarily think that it is better for your baby if you drink, but I am so glad that more and more people are talking about how it is okay to have a drink once and a while while pregnant. I am with the commenter above me. I eat very healthy, dont smoke, no soda, do yoga, no medication, prenatal viamins, blah blah blah and have a glass of wine OR TWO max once every one or two weeks. There are worse things for you I’m sure (pesticides?) People need to learn to use common sense, listen to their bodies, ( they are all unique and different! ) and learn to think for themselves.

SesshoumarusGirl July 3, 2010, 4:59 PM

Kpaige: YES! Well, said!

Elizabeth March 30, 2011, 5:18 PM

I did not know this at all. I would also be shocked if I saw a pregnant woman drinking any sort of alcoholic beverage. I would love to put one of those custom wine cellars in my house, but I was worried that if I had all that wine in my house and I was pregnant, I do love a good glass of Chardonnay here and there.

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