New studies from Denmark suggest mothers who drank low and moderate amounts of alcohol while pregnant did not alter the development of their children, who were tested at age 5 for intelligence as well as for attention span, decision making and planning capabilities.
"Children born by mothers who have of consumed between one and six alcohol units per week are just as intelligent and well-developed as children of abstaining mothers," the authors are quoted as saying in a release for the study, published Thursday in the international journal of obstetrics and gynecology, BJOG.
Heavy drinking throughout the term affects neurodevelopment, and "the authors of the papers state that it remains the most conservative advice for women to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy, however, small amounts may not present serious concern," they told BJOG.
The team followed 1,628 women from pregnancy to the time their children were five years old. They found no significant differences in the kids of moms who drank one to four drinks a week (low amounts), to those who drank five to eight drinks a week (moderate), to those who drank at least nine times a week (high).
There were some disparities, however. One of the studies found that five-year-old children whose moms women drank at least nine times a week had a slightly lower attention span than the others – but no change in IQ.
Another of the studies revealed a slight but "inconsistent" difference in the executive function – mental processes that help us plan, organize, self-control, pay attention and remember details – of children whose mothers binged (five or more drinks at a time) during early pregnancy.
Even so, the authors suggest mothers who binged several times before knowing they were pregnant "may also breathe a sigh of relief; their children have not been harmed," according to the release.
"The Danish Health and Medicines Authority recommends pregnant women to abstain completely from alcohol consumption, but we know from other studies that about half of the pregnant women do not entirely stay away from alcohol during pregnancy," lead author Ulrik Schioler Kesmodel said in the release.
"Many of these mothers report binge episodes during the period before they even knew that they were pregnant. Now we have scientific evidence which may set their minds at ease."
Did you tipple while pregnant?