How Much Can You Really Drink While Pregnant?

posted: 10/20/15
by: Mara Betsch
wine while pregnant

While pregnant, you want your growing child (or children) to be as healthy as possible. That means staying active, eating lots of healthy foods, taking prenatal vitamins, and avoiding potentially harmful foods and drinks, like fish with high mercury levels or cold cuts. And though alcohol has often been on the don't-drink list, recently some experts suggested that maybe a little bit of alcohol wasn't so bad. The key word being "little"...

Emily Oster, an associate professor of economics at Brown, pointed to studies that showed that the occasional drink (about one to two drinks per week) didn't seem to affect a child's development. "The evidence overwhelmingly shows that light drinking is fine," she wrote in a 2013 Wall Street Journal article. Though I haven't been pregnant, I can tell you, anecdotally, that plenty of my friends enjoyed a few sips of wine on special occasions during their pregnancies.

According to research from the CDC, they weren't alone. One in 10 women reports drinking some alcohol while pregnant.

However, in a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, new research has come down hard against any alcohol during pregnancy. The report shows that no amount of alcohol, during any trimester, is considered safe. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), a term used as a catch-all for all conditions caused by drinking during pregnancy, can affect a child's brain, heart, bones and spine, kidneys, vision and hearing. Prenatal alcohol exposure is associated with everything from a higher incidence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder to impaired impulse control.

These stats really put things in perspective: Drinking during the first trimester, compared to abstaining, results in 12 times the odds of giving birth to a child with FASDs. Women who drink throughout their pregnancy increased the likelihood of FASD odds by a factor of 65.

For any woman who's a social drinker, giving up alcohol for 9 months is a tall order, but these stats are so sobering that we're sure most moms-to-be will have no problem abstaining.