Moderate Drinking During Pregnancy Leads To Better Adjusted Children, So There

174101105Not only is moderate drinking during pregnancy okay, it actually may contribute to more well adjusted children. A new study shows expectant mothers who drink moderately have children with better mental health than children of those who totally abstain – but the study’s co-author is still recommending pregnant women don’t drink at all.

From Today Moms:

“I really think we should recommend abstaining [from drinking] during pregnancy,” says study co-author Janni Niclasen, a post-doctoral student at the University of Copenhagen. “I really believe that even a glass of wine now and again is really damaging.”

Really? Here’s what I think: The American Academy of Pediatrics and doctors in general can’t trust that women will take their advice right. Some may hear “drinking is okay” and drink way more than they should. It’s like the difference between having a handful of M&Ms, and having the whole bag. Some people can’t just have a handful, and if they hear “M&Ms are okay,” they use it as an excuse to eat the whole bag. These people ruin it for the rest of us.

Niclasen analyzed data from the Danish National Birth Cohort, which surveyed 37,000 women between 1996 to 2002. She found that pregnant women who drank moderately – roughly two drinks a week – had children with better mental health than those who abstained completely:

“The abstainers did the poorest in all outcomes. They were the poorest educated, smoked the most, did not exercise, and watched a lot of TV,” she says.

The moms who drank moderately did everything else right, in general; they exercised regularly, ate better, did not watch a lot of TV, had healthy BMIs, and were better educated. While these lifestyle factors have a huge impact on mental health, Niclasen found that when she controlled for them, mom’s alcohol consumption still had small influence on the children’s mental health.

There are so many factors that influence outcomes like these – so obviously the take away from a study like this isn’t “drinking is good for your baby.” I just like to see studies like this, that prove women are capable of living somewhat normal lives while pregnant and that they don’t have to  exist in a bubble of restraint and deprivation for nine months.

(photo: Getty Images)

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  • CMJ
    • Natasha B

      Heeeheeeheeee you win the gif. But, in all honesty, Mommyish readers seem pretty intelligent and open, so the thread may not get too exciting :/ if it was on babycenter, now…. ‘All yee alkyholic sluts shall burn in the fires of hellllllll’

    • CMJ

      Oh, I know….but all it takes is one.

    • Véronique Houde

      yessssss, there always is one…..

    • CMJ

      She’s here!!!!!!!

    • Véronique Houde

      Haha thanks for letting me know!! I was actually kind of disappointed when no one manifested ;). Alas, it’s the same one as usual…

    • Natasha B

      Crossing my fingers

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      I kinda want to stir some shit up just for you, but it’s not really a topic I can get too riled up about in either direction. I love a good snarkfest, though.

  • Bethany Ramos

    Maria, your explanation in this article is spot on. If anyone cares, I did drink moderately (2 glasses of wine a week) while pregnant and made my decision based on similar studies. Yay, moderation!

  • Joye77

    I admit that during my pregnancies I had a half a beer a couple times to reduce anxiety and help me rest. But I agree with your assessment that they will never say a small amount of alcohol is OK because you have idiots out there who will drink a 6 pack every night. Some people do not have common sense nor self control. Sad.

    • Bunny Lucia

      The other thing too is that “Moderate drinking” while pregnant and “Moderate drinking” while not pregnant are actually totally different amounts.

      Moderate drinking while not pregnant is 5-6 alcoholic beverages a week, which is twice/three times as much as the “Moderate drinking” while pregnant. So I can see why the scientists put a disclaimer.

    • CMP414

      I was just saying the same thing to my husband the other night when discussing this study. regular moderation and pregnancy moderation are different and that needs to be understood. i drank in moderation for pregnancy with my daughter and she is doing great at 2 yrs old. I’ll do the same for this new baby.

  • pixie

    It probably also has something to do with lifestyle before getting pregnant. For example, my mom rarely drinks, so her not drinking probably had little effect, whereas someone who already drinks moderately would be making a pretty big lifestyle change by drinking nothing. Similarly my mom is a runner, so while doctors will tell non-runner expectant mothers to not take up running, the doctor told my mom not to stop, but take it easy

  • SAR

    Guess what? I lost three babies and have one beautiful, smart daughter and I never worried about how a few small glasses of wine a week would affect my baby…and this is coming from a woman who pretty much made herself an expert on fetal health. My midwife had be sipping on some shiraz at the start of labor.

    • Bunny Lucia

      Shiraz sounds like a good way to get a labour going! Lol

  • Sara

    Pretty sure this is why my mom is fabulous and my aunt sucks. Grandma stopped drinking for my aunt and craved iced cold beer with my mom.

  • Natasha B

    I agree with the whole moderation rule. I enjoyed dark chocolate (gasp! Caffeine!), coffee, sushi and deli meat with all m pregnancies. My kids are fiiiiiiine.
    Will be having my 1/2 glass of bubbly this evening, as Gov just shut down all schools Monday, plus zoo/museums/play gyms in the state. So we will all be inside. For the next 3-5 days. Haaaaaalp

    • AgonyInvert

      Everything in Moderation, including moderation.

    • Maddi Holmes

      I always found the raw fish thing ridiculous. It’s basically a staple food in all Japanese diets and I’m pretty sure Japanese women are still having kids.

    • Natasha B

      That’s exactly what I tell people when I get the side-eye for my sushi cravings…..

    • Véronique Houde

      Best way to know is to go to a Japanese restaurant, order sushi and see the waiter’s reaction. They don’t react. Because they eat it when pregnant themselves ;). I’ve asked Japanese people visiting from Japan if they ate raw fish while pregnant and they gave me the side-eye because they thought my question was strange – of course they eat raw fish ;).

    • Alexandra

      I guess the issue is, how is the fish caught, shipped, stored? As long as you’re in an Oceanside state, for example, that may be ok, but I’d be wary of it in Kansas….In Japan, it’s something they know how to prepare without allowing it to get nasty bacteria, here, maybe not so much in certain places…

    • Maddi

      Good point. I live in Australia and 99% of the population lives in oceanside cities, I didn’t even consider people in landlocked areas! I also think Australia has much stricter food regulations than the USA

    • lea

      Comparing eating foods such as deli meats, sushi etc to drinking caffeine and alcohol is apples and oranges.

      Sushi and deli meats are themselves safe to eat whilst pregnant. The danger is the potential contamination. You could eat sushi by the mountain load and so long as it isn’t harbouring a nasty bacterial contaminant, you’re good.
      But eating them in moderation won’t protect you if the one piece of salami you eat happens to be the one piece contaminated with listeria, for example.

      On the other hand, consuming caffeine and alcohol is only safe in small (or moderate, depending on your interpretation of those words). You can’t safely drink as much alcohol or caffeine as you please.

      It is not good advice to suggest that eating risky foods in moderation is fine in the same way as drinking alcohol in moderation is.

      FWIW, I also ate sushi and deli meats from trusted sources, but abstained from other high risk foods, so I’m not a wowser. I just think it’s important that people actually understand why certain things are recommended rather than thinking health authorities are the food fun police.

      (sorry for the rant, its a generic one and not so much directed at your comment. It’s a bug bear of mine so I just can’t help myself!)

    • Courtney Lynn

      I actually agree. I still ate deli meat and other potentially dangerous foods BUT only if I knew the brand well and had bought it before. People gave me crap about it but once I told them that I was familiar with the source and as long as you know what you’re getting, it’s fine. I bought the SAME brand of lunch meat every time.

    • Natasha B

      Oh no, I totally agree with you. I put those in there as more of a ‘eating things sanctimommies freak out over’ then a ‘moderation’ thing. Except for the caffeine-people freak out so much over pregnant women getting an espresso drink. I totally agree on the lunch meat-we buy our from a reputable deli that we trust, and even when not pregnant I tend to avoid the scary slimy stuff, I don’t want my kids to get listeria either. When I was pregnant with #3, SIL totally freaked out on me when I posted a pic of the tataki rolls I had for dinner…at a reputable restaurant…..called me a bad mom. I had one nurse tell me to microwave my lunch meat before I ate it. Um, no. Ewwww.

    • Harriet Meadow

      I had my one cup of coffee a day while I was pregnant. My OB was perfectly fine with it. In fact, when I started getting AWFUL headaches during my third trimester and was craving cola (and I NEVER drink soda), she suggested that I go ahead and drink the cola because the caffeine would help with my headaches. It totally did help. I did abstain from alcohol completely, at least after I found out I was pregnant, but that was more because I found it easier NOT to drink at all than to try to limit myself to 1/2 a glass of wine… :/

    • rrlo

      Quote from Motherisk – which is run by the hospital:

      “Although heating or cooking food is the best way to
      inactivate food-borne pathogens, improved standards and surveillance
      have reduced the prevalence of contaminated foods at grocery
      stores.Therefore, it is no longer necessary for pregnant women to avoid
      foods like deli meats and soft cheeses (associated with Listeria); soft-cooked eggs (associated with Salmonella);
      or sushi and sashimi. Regardless of whether seafood is raw or cooked,
      pregnant women should choose low mercury seafood (eg, salmon and shrimp)
      over higher mercury varieties (eg, fresh tuna). Pregnant women should
      ensure that their food is obtained from reputable establishments;
      stored, handled, and cooked properly; and consumed within a couple of
      days of purchasing.”

      Good enough for me!

  • Raff got run0ver by a reindeer

    Now I know what to blame some of my booze hound habits on.
    Tanks mom.. tanks awoT!!

  • AgonyInvert

    If you have toddlers already, wouldn’t the drinking just come naturally?

    • Janok Place

      Yes, and Yes.

    • Kay_Sue

      Much like breathing, crying yourself to sleep during the terrible twos, and avoiding the urge to eat them.

    • Courtney Lynn

      Oh, it does!

  • Joe Daddy

    My momma was a responsable drunk & it worked out well fer us too, she had this trick of puttin a spoonful of booze in my milk bottle n she said it was just nuff to calm me down but not nuff to do me any harm

    • brebay

      Your English teacher begs to differ…

    • Alexandra

      And……cue the trolls LOL

  • Emma Lewis

    For all the lovely people here, it changed my life :)

  • Janok Place

    Excuse me while I go get a glass of wine… Cheers!

  • LiteBrite

    What about moderate drinking AFTER pregnancy? :)

  • Kay_Sue

    This makes sense. I do my best parenting when I’ve been drinking, I’m sure I’d do my best pregnant…ing then too. ;)

    Kidding, kidding. I do wish we’d quit beating ourselves up while pregnant. It’s stressful enough without adding more rules and regulations than the tax code to it.

  • brebay

    This is a ridiculous study. There were multiple variables; including smoking, exercise, education, and income that all could have contributed as well. All this really shows is that, in Denmark, moderate drinking is associated with higher education, lower poverty and non-smoking. For the study to reveal anything about drinking’s effects, it would have to be the only variable, or show a difference even when adjusted for all the other differences. Not knocking drinking during pregnancy, but this study doesn’t show anything about it over abstaining.

    • J

      Read more carefully, even after controlling for other variables, it still had a small effect.

    • brebay

      yeah, and if that “small effect” had been statistically significant, it would have been given in a number. “Small” is not a scientific measure.

    • moonie27

      Actually, a lot of scientific studies use the term “small but significant” when summarizing results. Which is often lost when reported to the mainstream, but small is indeed a term often used to summarize

    • J

      As a researcher, if it’s not significant, you don’t say there is an effect at all. At least not in any of the research journals I review for (I’m a social science prof.).

    • moonie27

      Yup, yup, yup. That’s a good way to think about it – if it’s being reported as having an effect, you should be able to assume significance.

      Though I’ve seen non significant findings in the discussion (biology): i.e., “the [noticed or expected] difference was not significant but intriguing and could have been influenced by failing to control for X and Y. Further studies will be needed.” confusing some laypeople/media reports.

  • Rachel

    Is two drinks a week really considered “moderate?” I don’t really drink at all (the most I’ve ever had is a sip of wine or a wine cooler once in a blue moon) because I just don’t like the taste of alcohol, but I always thought “moderate” would be a drink every day or something like that.

    • Gangle

      That is the problem when describing lifestyle choices in this way. Everyone has a different idea. Same with drink sizes. The standard size for a glass of wine is only 100mls. Most restaurant servings, and what most people recognise as ‘one serving’ are approximately double that. So many women possibly make the easy mistake of thinking they are only having 1-2 glasses of wine when if fact they are having between 3-4 standard drinks.

    • Rachel

      Thank you!

    • Alexandra

      So true!
      Also, some people drank quite a bit before pregnancy (I was admittedly one of those) and so “moderation” takes on a different sense. I just barely drink at all because it makes me sick – nauseous/heartburn.

    • CMP414

      Im thinking for a pregnant woman a few drinks per week would be the moderate way to go but for a non pregnant person maybe a few drinks a day is considered ok

  • Magrat

    Could this just be summed up, “Women who drink moderately during pregnancy are likely to be more laid-back people in general who don’t stress their kids out or hold them to unreasonable standards”? Just a thought.

    • Ddaisy

      I was thinking exactly the same thing.

    • Joye77

      You raise an excellent point there…

    • ted3553

      exactly what I’ve thought. I don’t understand how women in Japan eat sushi often and through their pregnancies but we can’t. For goodness sake, women in Britain stop drinking the hard stuff and switch to beer or light beer for an occasional drink. It’s quite common. North Americans seem to go way overboard on everything.

  • Teetotaler

    Okay, so should I start drinking then? I have never drank in my life… So conflicted!!!!

  • KaeTay

    if you have to validate your drinking while carrying your baby to say they are mentally stable.. maybe you need to look further at what you’re trying to do for yourself mentally.

    You want to drink ok fine, go ahead and drink no one can stop you, it’s not illegal or punishable by law but if your child is born with a illness that is linked to drinking while pregnant that’ll be your conscience. I chose to abstain and my daughter is stable in every way. Drinking is an escape and also a depressant. I do drink but it’s like a couple times a month so I’m not against having a drink here and there but really drinking is NOT that big a deal and if you can’t abstain from it, you have something wrong with you to be honest.

  • Lindsey

    If you look at the study, it says that the women who drank also ate better, exercised more, smoked less, and were better educated. This is too many differences to attribute all to of the effects to no drinking. As a public health worker and a scientist, these data show no conclusions about drinking by itself.

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