TUESDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- Children of women who drink
moderate amounts of alcohol while pregnant don't appear to have any
neurodevelopmental problems when it comes to balance, a new British
Researchers assessed the long-term health impact of drinking
while pregnant by testing roughly 7,000 10-year-olds on their
balancing abilities, a method that offers a reliable reflection of
fetal neurodevelopment. For the study, "moderate" alcohol
consumption was defined as between three to seven glasses of
alcohol a week.
The research team cautioned, however, that other variables, such
as maternal wealth and education, might have influenced the
The bottom line, according to study co-author John Mcleod, is
that "[there's] certainly no evidence that moderate alcohol use by
pregnant mums is good for their kids, and [there are] reasons to be
cautious about other messages around 'benefits' of moderate alcohol
use by pregnant mums. But equally, [there's] no strong evidence for
important harmful effects."
Macleod, chair of clinical epidemiology and primary care with
the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of
Bristol, and his colleagues discuss their findings in the June 17
online edition of
The research comes on the heels of another British study,
released in April, which reported no connection between "light"
drinking (one to two drinks per week) during pregnancy and
increased risk for mental defects among children at the age of
For the new study, the researchers focused on 6,915 children
from southwest England who had participated in the larger Avon
Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.
The team first analyzed maternal drinking habits self-reported
at both the 18-week mark of pregnancy and then again when the
children were 4 years old.
The vast majority of mothers -- 70 percent -- said they drank no
alcohol during pregnancy, while 25 percent said they had consumed
drinks in the range of "low" (one to two per week) to "moderate"
amounts on a weekly basis. Among such drinkers, one in seven had
actually engaged in "binge drinking," meaning at least four glasses
of alcohol at a sitting.
By the time their children were 4 years of age, 50 percent of
the mothers said they consumed three to seven glasses of alcohol
weekly. The research team noted that those who drank moderately
were older, more affluent and better educated.
At the age of 10, the children underwent two balance tests,
which included walking across a balance beam (to assess so-called
"dynamic balance"); standing heel-to-toe on a beam with eyes open
and closed (to assess "static balance"); and standing on just one
leg, eyes open and closed.
The result: moderate maternal (and paternal) drinking while
pregnant, and maternal drinking after delivery appeared to be
associated with better overall balance, particularly in terms of
Maternal genetic testing further revealed that the children of
mothers who had a so-called "low alcohol" gene (known to reduce
drinking behaviors) did
notperform worse on the balance tests than those whose
mothers didn't have the gene.
Dr. Francine Einstein, from the department of obstetrics &
gynecology and women's health at Montefiore Medical Center in New
York City, described the study as "interesting" while cautioning
that self-reports about alcohol consumption "must be taken with a
grain of salt."
"Some women may not recall how much they drank or may under-report use, particularly when there is a social stigma associated with what you are asking about," she noted. So "getting an accurate assessment of how much alcohol a child was exposed to is going to be difficult."
Reading and math skills should also be assessed, she added, as
should the impact of other nondrinking factors -- such family
wealth -- on a child's performance.
"For these reasons, I would be reluctant to tell my patients that drinking in pregnancy is a good idea," Einstein said.
For more on alcohol and pregnancy, visit the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
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