Everybody knows that pregnant women should refrain from alcohol, especially hard spirits. But is wine safe during pregnancy? A new study in the UK examined behavior issues with 3-year old children. Those whose mothers drank heavily had more problems. But those whose mothers only drank small amounts of wine during their pregnancy turned out to have better cognitive skills and overall behavior than those from mothers who didn’t drink at all.

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - MARCH 19: A glass of Cabernet Sauvignon is poured ahead of a tasting session as more than 250 wines from some 60 Israeli wineries compete for coveted awards to be announced next week March 19, 2007 in Tel Aviv. Wines have been produced in the Holy Land since pre-biblical times, but the Muslim conquest of 636 AD forced a hiatus in the tradition. Currently Israeli per capita wine consumption has doubled but compared to European countries it remains low.  (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)

The UK study defined ‘light drinking’ as two small drinks of either 4 ounces of wine or 10 ounces of light beer per week. Furthermore, a daily consumption must not exceed two such drinks. The study found little difference from those women who drank small amounts regularly compared to those who drank only two or less drinks during their entire pregnancy.

Pregnant women drinking small amounts of alcohol appear to have little affect on children’s behavior or overall health. Needless to say, one should always consult their doctor. There have been many studies on the subject of drinking alcohol in regards to pregnancy. The fact that this new one seems to consider light, moderate drinking acceptable does not make it so in all cases.

The new British study appears in the International Journal of Epidemiology. Conducted by the University College of London (UCL) the research was led by Dr. Yvonne Kelly of the school’s department of epidemiology and public health. She says “The link between heavy drinking and risk of fetal alcohol syndrome is well-established.” Dr. Kelly adds that “However, it is unclear whether low levels of drinking during pregnancy may convey harm for child health and development.”

She and her researchers reviewed data from the U.K. Millennium Cohort Study, which followed some 12,495 children from 2000 to 2002. Children from all of the U.K. were part of the study, made of from those in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. During the pregnancies, mothers completed surveys on a wide range of topics, including their drinking habits. The study then returned to each subject when the children reached the age of three years old and were given tests on behavior and cognition.

The UCL review of the data appears to show that there were no significant differences between those women who drank small amounts of light alcohol regularly with those who abstained. The data clearly showed increases in behavior problems and less cognitive skills in those children whose mothers drank heavily during their pregnancies, averaging 7 or more drinks per week.

Dr. Yvonne Kelly of the University College of London believes the answer to is wine safe during pregnancy may be more social than dietary. That women who drink small amounts of light alcohol occasionally tend to be more relaxed. Meanwhile, the official policy of the U.K. public health system cautions people from acting on this new study. The risks of the heavy consumption of alcohol during pregnancy are well documented and should not be ignored.

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