Study shows benefits of drinking in pregnancy but advice unchanged
DRINKING small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy may confer a lower risk of behavioural and cognitive problems in children, controversial new British research reveals.
However, the findings will not alter Australian advice, an expert says.
A study of 18,553 UK households found mothers who drank lightly – not more than one to two units per week or per occasion – had children with higher scores on a validated questionnaire of behavioural strengths and difficulties at three years of age compared to abstinent or heavier-drinking mothers.
Boys born to light-drinking mothers, compared with those born to abstainers, were 41% less likely to have conduct problems and almost a third less likely to be hyperactive. They were also more likely to have higher cognitive ability test scores.
Girls were 28% less likely to have emotional problems and similar results were shown for peer problems.
However, despite this data, Professor Jon Currie, director of addiction medicine at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, said not drinking was still the safest option.
“I don’t think even the authors would agree that light drinking improves a baby or is somehow protective,” he said.
The fact that light drinkers were more likely to be better educated, from higher income households, and less likely to have smoked during pregnancy was a key factor, said Professor Currie, a member of the expert panel that wrote the existing NHMRC alcohol guidelines.