Children born to mums who were light or moderate drinkers in early pregnancy (2 to 6 drinks per week) were found to have “more positive” behaviour than those whose mums abstained from alcohol altogether.
The research followed the development of 2,370 children over a 14-year period. Their behavior was studied every 2-3 years between the ages of 2 and 14. Children of light to moderate drinkers had a “clinically meaningful” lower risk of psychological traits such as internalising or externalising negative behaviour in either depression or aggression.
This may seem surprising as the dangers of heavy alcohol consumption in pregnancy are well documented. NICE recommendations remain to avoid alcohol completely, particularly in the 1st 3 months. If mums-to-be do choose to drink, they should limit themselves to just 1 or 2 units once or twice a week.
“We need to be cautious about generalising the effects of a heavy alcohol intake to a light consumption of alcohol – they are not equal,” said Dr Monique Robinson who conducted the study.
This is particularly reassuring for women whose pregnancies are unplanned and who consumed alcohol throughout the first months unaware of their condition.
“Women should not feel guilty or anxious about low-level drinking effects prior to recognition of the pregnancy. However, binge and large alcohol intake should still be avoided as this does have potential for harm,” Dr Monique clarified.
All this shouldn’t encourage mums-to-be to head to the pub, though, as the overall effect of alcohol in pregnancy is still unknown. Dr Monique recommends mums-to-be to talk to their GP or midwife about their choices.