Drinking lightly during pregnancy may not affect a child’s cognitive development, a study finds


Drinking during pregnancy is considered a serious no-no by many women, and there’s evidence to show that heavy imbibing while pregnant may be linked with developmental problems in children. But a new study finds that babies born of light drinkers may not show any greater risk of cognitive or emotional problems than women who abstain from alcohol during pregnancy.

The research, published online Tuesday in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, analyzed data from a UK cohort study of 11,513 children born between 2000 and 2002. Among the mothers, 5.9% never drank alcohol, 60.2% never drank while pregnant, 25.9% were light drinkers (no more than one or two units of alcohol per week), 5.5% were moderate drinkers (no more than three to six units per week) , and 2.5% were heavy or binge drinkers (seven or more units per week).

When the children were 9 months old their mothers were asked about drinking habits while pregnant, as well as socioeconomic factors that might affect the children’s progress. Mothers were asked about their children’s behavior at the age of 3, and when the children were 5 years old their behavior and cognitive abilities were assessed.


No increased risk was seen for emotional or cognitive problems in children whose mothers were light drinkers compared with children whose mothers didn’t drink while pregnant. When the researchers controlled for a number of variables, boys whose mothers were light drinkers scored higher on cognitive tests than children of mothers who didn’t drink during pregnancy.

--Jeannine Stein / Los Angeles Times