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See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 23, Issue 5

A Daily Glass of Wine Is Okay during Pregnancy

Moms' moderate drinking does not affect kids' cognition



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Many pregnant women indulge in an occasional—or even regular—glass of wine and then worry that it might put their baby at a mental disadvantage. A new study of more than 1,600 Danish five-year-old children shows that these nonteetotaler moms can breathe a sigh of relief.

Kids whose mothers had up to eight drinks a week were just as smart as their peers born to abstaining moms, according to the study, which measured brainpower in several ways. Another common concern comes from moms who had a “last blast”—a binge of five or more drinks—before realizing they were pregnant. These women, too, can breathe easy; tots whose moms had a binge episode early in pregnancy performed just as well on the mental tasks.

Heavier drinking during pregnancy does handicap children, and some previous reports had suggested that even a little daily alcohol could potentially harm the child. “Intelligence, attention and executive functions [such as planning and reasoning] are often affected in children of alcohol-abusing mothers,” says lead researcher Ulrik S. Kesmodel of Aarhus University in Denmark. Therefore, he and his colleagues expected to be able to detect the effects of small amounts of alcohol on these specific abilities, he says. Yet no such changes emerged when the researchers put kids to these tasks. The results appeared in June in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Expecting moms can relax, it appears, and have a drink now and then, guilt-free.

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