Over the years there has been a wealth of data compiled concerning the consumption of alcohol by women during pregnancy. For decades, the general consensus has been that it is best for pregnant women to abstain from alcohol consumption; however, the emergence of new studies places the question surrounding alcohol consumption and pregnancy back at the forefront of medical discussions.
Although some studies have surfaced that suggest that moderate consumption of alcohol by pregnant women does not increase the risk of neurodevelopmental issues in the fetus, the predominance of evidence to the contrary is clear in the expression of the need for pregnant women to abstain from alcohol consumption.
While Americans appear to be more conservative when it comes to drinking during pregnancy, alcohol consumption during pregnancy is far more pervasive in Europe. There seems to be a common perception in Europe that “moderate” drinking during pregnancy is okay.
Determining What Amount of Alcohol Should Be Considered Safe
The use of terms like “moderate” and “light” when discussing alcohol consumption during pregnancy creates too much ambiguity for there to be an established consensus for what is acceptable and what is not. According to both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Surgeon General, there is no scientifically established safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy.
Furthermore, there is no safe period during pregnancy when drinking alcohol is less risky. What has been proven is that the developing fetus lacks the capacity to effectively metabolize alcohol through the liver or other organs.
Additionally, a report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics presents empirical data that the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy not only has the capacity to damage developing fetuses, but it is the leading preventable cause of birth defects.
Carefully Evaluating Opposing Views
Several studies published recently suggest that children of mothers who drank moderately during their pregnancy don’t appear to show any signs of neurodevelopmental issues.
A 2013 study published by Professor John Macleod tested approximately 7,000 10-year-olds on several neurological functions, including balancing capacity, and they were unable to detect any difference in these functions between children whose mothers drank moderately and those whose mothers did not drink at all.
While there are several recent studies suggesting that moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy may be acceptable, there is also no evidence that there is any benefit to drinking during pregnancy. The general consensus of the scientific community is that it is best for pregnant mothers to abstain from alcohol consumption throughout the pregnancy; the risk associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy, no matter how minimal, outweighs any potential benefits.