When it comes to pregnant women, the general, accepted recommendation is not to drink any alcohol at all. But researchers from the United Kingdom have found that there is “surprisingly limited” evidence showing that light drinking for pregnant women has any detrimental effect on the unborn child.
A team from Bristol University reviewed all the studies that have been conducted on the topic beginning in the 1950s, and discovered that there is no convincing proof that having one or two drinks a week poses a risk, the BBC reports.
Of course, this does not mean that light drinking is totally safe, the researchers point out. As per official guidelines, pregnant women should avoid alcohol “just in case.” But women who do drink small amounts during their pregnancy can be reassured that they are not likely to have caused any danger to their baby’s health.
Dr. Luisa Zuccolo and colleagues examined 26 relevant studies on pregnancy and drinking alcohol. They found that in seven of the studies, light drinking was associated with an 8% higher risk of giving birth to a smaller baby, compared to no drinking at all. Light drinking also appeared to have slightly increased the chances of a premature birth. However, there was no overwhelming evidence of harm.
David Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, said,
A precautionary approach is still reasonable, but with luck this should dispel any guilt and anxiety felt by women who have an occasional glass of wine while they are pregnant.
Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for the UK, updated her recommendation last year from telling pregnant women that they could drink one to two units a week, to abstaining from all alcohol.
There is no proven “safe” amount that women can drink while pregnant, although there is plenty of evidence on the dangerous risks of heavy drinking.
The study was published in BMJ Open.