Drinking alcohol during early pregnancy may not be harmful, study says

A new pregnancy study published in October's Obstetrics & Gynecology journal indicates that consuming alcohol during the early stages of pregnancy may not lead to the detrimental side effects most people have come to associate with the practice, according to U.S. News.

For years, women have been told that drinking alcohol while pregnant can adversely affect baby development and lead to premature birth, birth defects (including low birth weight) and preeclampsia. However, the study, headed by Dr. Fergus McCarthy of the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research at Cork University Maternity Hospital in Ireland, has shown that there were no noticeable differences in the birthing experience of women who had imbibed alcohol during early pregnancy versus those who had not.

Cork University's INFANT study monitored 5,600 different women through the early stages of their pregnancies, including before they became pregnant up to the fifteenth week. Of the women, 60 reported having consumed alcohol during the first 15 weeks. About 20 percent admitted to drinking "occasionally," meaning one to two drinks per week, while another 25 percent reported "low" amounts of drinking, approximately three to seven drinks per week. Approximately 10 percent of the women reported imbibing a "moderate" amount of alcohol, or seven to 10 drinks, while 5 percent of women said they engaged in "heavy" drinking, or upwards of 14 drinks. Of that last 5 percent, a full third said they had engaged in "binge drinking," or drinking six or more drinks in one session. For the purpose of the study, a "drink" was considered to be a glass of wine or beer just under 12 ounces.

McCarthy's research team found that there was no difference in the rate of premature births, birth defects or instances of preeclampsia among any of the sets of women involved in the study. The study was conducted between 2004 and 2011 and surveyed women in Australia, Great Britain, Ireland and New Zealand.

This research comes a year after a similar study conducted by Danish researchers, which found that drinking between one and eight alcoholic beverages per week was not harmful to either baby or mother. The research included a smaller sample size of 1,600 women. The study was conducted by Ulrik Schiøler Kesmodel of Aarhus University and Erik Lykke Mortensen of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

Despite these findings, other medical professionals and associates remain wary, and caution that pregnant women shouldn't take this as a recommendation to consume more liquor. Rather, they should limit themselves to one or two drinks, reported  the news source.

It should also be noted that heavy drinking at any point in a pregnancy has been linked to miscarriage and fetal alcohol syndrome. Pregnant mothers are still cautioned to avoid overconsumption.

Do you think having the occasional drink while pregnant is harmful to your child? Let us know how you feel in the comments section!