Friday 08 October 2010 by Helen

The recurring debate surrounding whether or not it is safe to drink when pregnant has arisen again in the news this week. I too sighed and thought - well, what have they got to say this time ?

My long sigh was due to the fact that they seem to bring out a new study, offering a new take on the issue, every single year...

Going back to 2008, it was 'drinking when pregnant risks autism in babies', in 2009 it was 'drinking when pregnant can make children more attracted to alcohol.'

Colour photo of a glass of red wine

And in 2010 they are now saying ' drinking when pregnant doesn't affect your baby.'  

No study has actually been able to correlate moderate drinking to birth defects. The studies that promote not drinking whilst pregnant are based on results from heavy drinkers. But these studies are based on big generalisations.  I would assume health professionals err on the side of caution with their warnings, and are maybe even doing a bit of scaremongering, in order to deter the heavier drinkers. I suppose if they make a bold statement like ‘drinking when pregnant has no effect on your baby’, people will interpret this on many different levels, the health risks are increased and there are more likely to be repercussions. I read an interview with a Mother who supports the advice to abstain, as she feels without the black and white approach, we're in danger of muddying the waters and confusing pregnant women. So, basing their recommendations on the worst case scenario might be in everyone’s best interest, even if the advice doesn't actually apply to everyone. That’s what needs to be made clearer, that the majority should take a sensible approach and make up their own mind about what they consider to be a reasonable amount to drink. Take three of my friends during their pregnancies for example, they all made their own minds up, and each made a very different choice. One of them had the occasional drink, a glass of champagne at a wedding for example, another, made a decision not to drink at all, and the other just went off the taste of alcohol completely.

As with many of these studies, it's worth remembering what they are not telling you and what they are not finding. They are generally conducted on quite a small, niche group, so the findings cannot apply to everyone. I think this latest study is probably more relevant to the majority of us, and the news that light drinking is fine, is great if, come the weekend, you fancy relaxing with a beer or glass of wine.


Photo credit: via Flickr - Davide Restivo

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