Published: Wed, September 13, 2017
Medical | By Carla Vaughn

Light Drinking During Pregnancy May Not Affect Baby's Health, Study Finds

Light Drinking During Pregnancy May Not Affect Baby's Health, Study Finds

The research team, which reviewed all the available studies done on the topic since the 1950s, found no convincing proof that a drink or two a week is harmful.

They agree that drinking no alcohol in pregnancy is the safest option, but women should be told that little research has been done on light drinking, although they should also be informed that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence", they write.

The new study, carried out by experts from the Medical Research Council's Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol, the University's School of Social and Community Medicine, and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, discovered that drinking up to four units a week while pregnant was associated with an average 8% higher risk of giving birth to a slightly smaller baby (SGA), compared to those who did not drink at all.

The new study, an open-access report published online in BMJ Open, reviewed 26 studies on the effects of low alcohol consumption at 32 and fewer weeks of pregnancy.

Of course, this does not mean that light drinking is totally safe, the researchers point out.

Here's everything we know about the guidelines on drinking alcohol during pregnancy. By comparison, light or moderate smoking less than 20 cigarettes per day was associated with a 22 percent increased risk.

Also, researchers stated that the lack of eminent data shows the complications of designing research that can truly estimate the causal effect of light alcohol consumption while minimizing the risks of bias and confounding.

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The evidence proving light drinking was risky was "surprisingly limited", they concluded. However, the evidence regarding light drinking is still unclear.

The issue remains of great public health importance because up to 80 percent of moms-to-be in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia drink some alcohol during their pregnancy.

"As a precaution, we advise pregnant women to avoid alcohol and this advice is supported by the Royal College of Midwives and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists".

"Formulating guidance on the basis of the current evidence is challenging", the researchers mused, which is a delicate way of saying "It's impossible to say one way or another". "Women who have had a drink while pregnant should be reassured that they are unlikely to have caused their baby considerable harm, but if anxious, they should discuss this with their GP or midwife", she observed.

"These were all representative studies of pregnant women or women trying to conceive who reported on their alcohol use before the baby was born", Mamluk said.

Andrew Shennan, professor of obstetrics at King's College London, said: "It has been hard to associate low levels of alcohol intake in pregnancy and harm, and this work confirms this".

Up until previous year, women were told they could drink up to one or two units, once or twice a week.

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