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No Booze for Pregnant Women

How much alcohol can a pregnant woman consume without risking harm to her baby?

Ideally, none at all.

That's the message from a new study that adds to the body of evidence that prenatal alcohol exposure, even in small quantities, heightens a child's risk of conduct disorder.

The study, conducted by Elizabeth Disney of Chase Brexton Health Services in Baltimore and published in the December issue of Pediatrics, found that the adolescent children of mothers who'd had more than a drink a week while expecting were more likely than those whose moms hadn't imbibed to show signs of CD. Those symptoms include aggressive and destructive behavior, lying, and substance abuse.

The research, which included 1,252 Minnesota twins and their parents, focused on separating, through sophisticated data analysis, the apparent effects of maternal alcohol consumption from other related factors such as the mother or father's antisocial behavior and their smoking habits.

The study notes that one in five American women drinks during pregnancy but doesn't say whether that figure includes those who merely sip a bit of champagne at a friend's wedding. I was surprised at the study's characterization of the average number of drinks per week women in the study who drank at all had consumed -- three -- as very low. I suppose I travel in a certain circle, but I don't know any mother who drank anywhere near that much while pregnant.

This is hardly the only what-can-I-consume-while-pregnant matter women need to sort through. Just over a month ago The Checkup reported on research showing caffeine consumption during pregnancy might cause miscarriage. And the controversy over whether pregnant women should eat fish -- weighing fish's strong nutritional value against the possibility of mercury contamination -- continues.

So maybe you pregnant moms could use some information about what you can eat while you're expecting. The American Academy of Physician Assistants has recently issued a revised version of its popular "Healthy Eating During Pregnancy" brochure, which recommends only modest caffeine consumption (up to 300 mg per day) and no alcohol at all when you're pregnant. As for fish, the brochure recommends up to 12 ounces a week as a great source of protein and other nutrients, but suggests sticking with low-mercury varieties such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.

It's hard to limit caffeine and cut out that nice glass of wine when you're pregnant. But just think: In just a few months you'll have a bouncing baby boy or girl in hand. Nobody will fault you for drinking a toast to that blessed event.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  December 8, 2008; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health  
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Next: Better-for-You Holiday Beverages, Anyone?

Comments

" It's hard to limit caffeine and cut out that nice glass of wine when you're pregnant. But just think: In just a few months you'll have a bouncing baby boy or girl in hand. Nobody will fault you for drinking a toast to that blessed event."

The Nursing Nazis will stomp all over you.

Posted by: jezebel3 | December 8, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

What about people like me, who drink maybe once a month? Will we be destroying our babies, too?

This post draws conclusions on statistics it identifies as flawed. Shouldn't it be questioning the statistics instead?

"Ideally, none at all" is hardly news. I'm not really sure what the point of this post is, although I guess it may be providing publicity for this newest study. But is that what it should be doing?

Posted by: UCLAgirl | December 8, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Although the drink-a-week while pregnant correlation is interesting, my guess is that CD and a drinking when pregnant are more an indication of a more fundamental factor: The behavior of the parents.

Posted by: wolfcastle | December 8, 2008 2:23 PM | Report abuse

The reason three a week is considered very low is because, for the most part, the only women who continue to drink when they are pregnant are alcoholics who are unable to stop. As a result the vast majority of the studies that have shown harm are with people who drink more than 1 drink per day (often much more). This study would not have included someone who only drank a few sips a few times during their pregnancy, which is almost certain to have no effect (for most people, that amount of alcohol would be metabolized before ever entering the bloodstream, particularly if consumed with food).

Posted by: goterps00 | December 8, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Au contraire, Jezebel....the Nursing Nazis advocate drinking while nursing to relax and let the juices flow. Doesn't the picture of a mutha knocking back a few brewskis with a youngun latched on warm the very cockles of your heart?

Posted by: Baltimore11 | December 8, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

"The study notes that one in five American women drinks during pregnancy but doesn't say whether that figure includes those who merely sip a bit of champagne at a friend's wedding. I was surprised at the study's characterization of the average number of drinks per week women in the study who drank at all had consumed -- three -- as very low. I suppose I travel in a certain circle, but I don't know any mother who drank anywhere near that much while pregnant."

Actually, the study does says that only women drinking one or more drinks per week where considered as "drinking while pregnant". So clearly, the "merely sip a bit of champagne at a friend's wedding" were not counted in that group. I don't think is that suprising that you don't know any mothers that drank as much as the reported average (2.9) drinks per week given that only 13.1% reported drinking during pregnancy. So only 1 in 10 mothers drunk one or more than 1 drink per week. The authors don't show the distribution curve, but the typical alcohol consumption curve (Ledermann model) is lognormal (very skewed towards low values) rather than normal which in this case would have a median below 2.9, meaning that 50% of the drinking while pregnant women drunk less than ~ 2.5 drinks a week and 50% drunk more.

Posted by: ogs123 | December 8, 2008 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Reason #4,628 to NOT HAVE CHILDREN!

Cheers!

Posted by: kase | December 8, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

The measure for alcohol consumption was:

"As you know, it was very common in the past for women to drink during pregnancy. During your pregnancy with the twins, how much did you drink during an average week?" Mothers who endorsed ≥1 drink per week were coded positive as drinking during pregnancy.

Okay, so first you have a study population of twin births, which might be subject to a greater risk of disorders, although this isn't covered in the lit review. Second, what a measure! You could drink 3 glasses a day, or 1 a week, and be the same code!!

Third, the link to the SAMHSA website lists a number of factors associated with conduct disorder (a condition for common in boys, a discussion in and of itself), but this study does not control for any of them.

I'm surprised it got past reviewers.

Posted by: lawton1 | December 8, 2008 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Not drinking alcohol is the least a future mom can do, and the license to gain weight compensates by letting some of us enjoy sour cream and butter for the first time.

Posted by: jhbyer | December 9, 2008 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Back in the day, the nursing recommendation was to have a beer or a glass of wine while nursing. (I seldom had the time to do that, especially after the first one.) But I believe the current recommendation is not to drink during the weeks or months you are nursing, the same as when you were pregnant.

Posted by: dnfree | December 10, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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