Setting the Record Straight: No Amount of Alcohol Safe While Pregnant

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drinking alcohol while pregnant According to a new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), drinking alcohol while pregnant could lead to lifelong cognitive and behavioral issues.

While previous studies have hinted that a little bit of alcohol consumption during pregnancy may be harmless, the AAP has issued a new warning that no amount of drinking is safe while pregnant.

Dr. Janet Williams, the report’s co-author, states, “The only guarantee of having no effects from alcohol is no prenatal alcohol exposure,” adding that “alcohol has subtle yet important lasting effects on academic performance, attention, behavior, cognition, memory, language skills, and visual and motor development.”

The new report, published online today in the journal Pediatrics, suggests that there is no safe trimester to drink alcohol and that all forms of alcohol, including wine and beer, pose similar risks. The report further states that binge drinking poses a higher risk in line with the excess amount of alcohol consumption. Binge drinking in women, according to Williams, is defined as drinking four or more drinks in the span of two hours.

Commenting on previous studies that suggest drinking a small number of drinks while pregnant is safe, Williams explains that these studies actually don’t conclude that alcohol is safe. Instead, they show that based on specific participants and conditions, the evidence that alcohol exposure is the attributable factor is insufficient.

However, despite the new research, Williams suggests that many women tend to rationalize their alcohol consumption while pregnant, believing that it’s either too low or infrequent enough that it’s a non-factor.

Christina Chambers, a professor of pediatrics at the Center for Better Beginnings at the University of California, San Diego, offers this advice: “Women of childbearing age who drink alcohol should consider their pattern of drinking. For example, avoid binge drinking and avoid pregnancy as long as they are drinking. If pregnancy is planned, then alcohol can be discontinued.”

Both Williams and Chambers note that alcohol consumption is risky during all stages of pregnancy, although neither would state that the risk is higher in certain stages.

Physicians have been warning about the hazards of drinking while pregnant for decades. Yet, nearly half of all women of childbearing age in the U.S. have reported that they consumed alcohol within the last month while nearly eight percent continue to drink alcohol during pregnancy.

Concerning the AAP report, Chambers notes it “is an important stand to take, and hopefully it will lead to less stigma associated with [fetal alcohol spectrum disorders] and to more access to and uptake of prevention and treatment services.”

Source for Today’s Article:
Dotinga, R., “No Amount of Alcohol Safe During Pregnancy, Doctors Say,” Medicine Net web site, October 19, 2015; http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=191281.

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