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To Drink or Not to Drink While Preggers

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Ronda Kaysen: Earlier this month, I reported the results of a new Australian study that found that the kids of moms who drank "moderately" (about a glass of wine a day) during pregnancy were happier and better behaved than the kids of moms who stayed off the booze.

pregnant woman

Now, a Danish study has found that the sons of moms who drank that same amount of alcohol while pregnant -- a glass a night -- have a lower sperm count than do the sons of moms who completely abstained. But get this: If a pregnant woman drinks a glass of wine a week, her son is likely to have an incredibly potent sperm count. Go figure.

These studies can make anyone's head hurt -- especially a pregnant mom who's currently missing her Pinot. Do I reach for a glass, or recoil from it? And if I indulge, will my offspring be happy and well-adjusted, but infertile?

It seems like every week, researchers have new, contradictory information on just about everything -- and when it comes to pregnancy, the list of restrictions is ever-growing. Studies like these are interesting in that they show just how hard it is to know how much alcohol, if any, is safe during pregnancy.

In the United States, complete abstention is the general rule. But that's not true in countries like France, which endorse more lenient policies that suggest a drink a night is just fine.

The Danish study is the first of its kind, meaning that the researchers say more work is needed before any solid conclusions can be drawn. But the conclusions are pretty striking: Sons of moms who drank daily while pregnant had a sperm count that was a third lower than that of sons whose moms didn't drink at all.

"Because this is an observational study, we cannot say for certain that the alcohol causes the lower sperm concentrations," said Dr. Cecilia Ramlau-Hansen, senior researcher in the Department of Occupational Medicine at Aarhus University Hospital. "It is possible that drinking alcohol during pregnancy has a harmful effect on the fetal semen-producing tissue in the testes -- and thereby on semen quality in later life."

The Australian and Danish studies are both based on surveys, which are subject to human error. Regardless, they leave a pregnant woman to wonder not just about alcohol, but about all that she consumes during pregnancy -- and how it could affect her baby.

next: What Will You Do With Your '168 Hours'?
5 comments so far | Post a comment now
Peggy Brister June 29, 2010, 2:45 PM

I am quite curious as to HOW THEY KNOW that these boys of drinking moms have lower sperm count! Did they wait until the boys were grown men then ask them for a sample or are they getting samples from children. In that case I would be quite disturbed. I would never take a chance drinking during pregnancy when for years we have been told that FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME is caused by a mom drinking. Why even take a chance? Because you don’t want to go 9 months without wine? In that case you may have a problem you need 12 steps for to begin with.

C June 30, 2010, 6:51 AM

This shows how important it is to know the details of research studies. How many people were involved, for example. What ELSE could have been different between the groups (drinking moms could be doing other risky things or there could be differences regionally or in prenatal care). We shouldn’t believe everything we hear, even when the news article mentions a research study results as though it is a fact.

MJ June 30, 2010, 5:38 PM

i agree with c, many of these studies do not include variables, which really changes everything. why the heck would one glass of wine a week give you son a higher sperm count, it makes no sense.

peggy, there is no way one glass of wine a week, let’s say, would cause ”fas”, our society has become a little obsessed with almost non existent risks, i am surprised we let pregnant women get in cars anymore ;P

i have met people who claim to have known children with fetal alcohol syndrome and told me the mom only drank a glass a week, or day or whatever, i for one don’t believe that, but i do believe alcoholics lie, so of course an alcoholic would claim she had very little and the baby came out that way.
which could also be why we all think a baby could get fetal alcohol syndrome from minimal drinking during pregnancy.

on a different topic, just the sight of red wine during pregnancy made me gag, haha, so i don’t even know how anyone could stomach even a sip ;)

SesshoumarusGirl July 3, 2010, 4:56 PM

MJ, Here, here! I agree, we are getting paranoid about stuff like this. My grandmother drank wine during all three of her pregnancies (twice a week) and her kids were fine!

To me, there is a HUGE difference between having the occasional glass of wine and drinking DJ’s ALL DAY LONG.

DirtyHooker August 3, 2010, 7:19 AM

“In that case you may have a problem you need 12 steps for to begin with.”

Simply because a woman looks at the available evidence and makes an educated decision to drink alcohol in moderation during pregnancy does not make her an alcoholic. It just means she made a different decision than you would.

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