Pregnancy and alcohol consumption: What we know

We have some exciting news in my family: We are expecting our third child in mid-October. The upcoming addition to our family has me reviewing the evidence on how to have a healthy pregnancy. So I was intrigued when I saw an article in the New York Times this week about alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

The article cites a longitudinal study conducted in England that found light drinking during pregnancy – up to one glass of wine per week – is not linked to developmental problems in children up to age 7.

While I found the information interesting, I wanted some more comprehensive evidence.One of the first pieces of information I found is that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and New York State Department of Healthboth promote completely abstaining from alcohol use during pregnancy with the message that there is no known safe amount to consume, and no safe time during pregnancy to consume alcohol.Personally, I was interested in the evidence behind these policies, so I went looking for systematic reviews on the topic.

I found a few. Among them, a 2007 review included 46 studies that assessed whether consuming alcohol during pregnancy led to problems in pregnancy or birth including miscarriage, stillbirth, intrauterine growth restriction, prematurity, low birth weight or birth defects. It found no adverse effects to the child when the mother consumed low levels of alcohol during pregnancy.

Another review measuring similar outcomes -a small fetus, low birthweight and preterm birth – found that consuming up to one drink per day had no effect on babies, but more than one drink a day did lead to increased risks for the baby across all three categories.

I did find one review that concluded any alcohol consumption during pregnancy led to negative outcomes for children. The review – which included a total of 21 studies – examined the association between alcohol consumption during pregnancy and childhood leukemia. It found at levels as low as one drink for week, maternal alcohol consumption was associated with an increased risk of acute myeloid leukemia.

As for my part, I have had a few sips of my husband’s drinks at parties or when we’re out to dinner, but I have yet to consume an entire beverage on my own. Before reviewing the evidence, I felt fairly confident that low levels of alcohol consumption were safe for my baby. But the study about childhood leukemia certainly gives me pause. Given what I’ve found, I think I’ll stick to a sip or two of my husband’s drink on special occasions.


  1. Dr Rajesh says:

    Drinking alcohol when you’re pregnant can be very harmful to your baby. It can cause your baby to have a range of lifelong health conditions. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, preterm birth and stillbirth.
    When you drink alcohol during pregnancy, so does your baby. The same amount of alcohol that is in your blood is also in your baby’s blood. The alcohol in your blood quickly passes through the placenta and to your baby through the umbilical cord.
    Although your body is able to manage alcohol in your blood, your baby’s little body isn’t. Your liver works hard to break down the alcohol in your blood. But your baby’s liver is too small to do the same and alcohol can hurt your baby’s development. That’s why alcohol is much more harmful to your baby than to you during pregnancy.
    Alcohol can lead your baby to have serious health conditions, called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). The most serious of these is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Fetal alcohol syndrome can seriously harm your baby’s development, both mentally and physically.

    Dr Rajesh, MD

  2. Larica says:

    This article is very amazing for health. Before i read this article , I didn’t know about the matter .Now I understood. I also want to try follow this tips. Thank you for the information.

  3. jane says:

    Of course its not an issue to have one or two drinks when pregnant, I did and my son is ahead (walking at 8 months independently, completeing tasks usually expected to be achieved at 2years old at the one year old development check etc). You know we even used to give women Guinness in maternity hospitals to aid with iron. I have only ever heard of cases of potential fetal alcohol syndrome issues and that was where the mother was an alcoholic and had cut down her drinking to two bottles of whisky a day (2litres of a high proof alcohol) I wouldn’t want to drink that much ever but a nice glass of wine or traditional Somerset cider is nice treat which is the point everything in moderation! Can you get pregnant while on your period

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