Light drinking when pregnant may lead to calm babies, says study

Drinking one or two glasses of wine a week during pregnancy does not harm the mental development of the baby and is even linked with an overall improvement in the behaviour of toddlers, a major study found.

Heavy drinking while pregnant carries a high risk of serious health problems to the growing foetus but light drinking – defined as taking one or two units of alcohol per week or per occasion – produces no ill effects, the study of nearly 12,500 three-year-olds found.

Toddlers born to women who drank lightly during their pregnancy were found to have significantly fewer emotional problems and better cognitive skills than those born to mothers who abstained completely or drunk heavily.

Research into the drinking patterns of the mothers of 12,495 three-year-olds born in Britain found no evidence that drinking lightly at any stage of pregnancy has any discernible effect on the mental development of the foetus and baby. "Our research has found that light drinking does not increase the risk of behavioural difficulties or cognitive deficits [in the baby]," said Dr Yvonne Kelly of University College London, who led the study, published in the International Journal Of Epidemiology.

"Indeed, for some behavioural and cognitive outcomes, those born to light drinkers were less likely to have problems compared to children of abstinent mothers, although those born to heavy drinkers were more likely to have problems compared to children of mothers who drank nothing while pregnant."

The study found that boys born to the mothers who drank lightly were 40 per cent less likely to have "conduct" problems and 30 per cent less likely to suffer from hyperactivity compared to abstinent mothers, even when other factors such as family background and social class were taken into account.

Boys born to mothers who drank lightly also scored higher in tests of vocabulary, or the perception of colour, shapes, letters and numbers compared to boys whose mothers abstained. Girls born to mothers who drank lightly were 30 per cent less likely to have emotional symptoms and peer problems than girls born to abstainers.

It is well established that women who drink lightly are more likely to be better educated and to have a professional career than those who abstain or drink heavily. "People in lower social groups are more likely to abstain from alcohol or drink more heavily than socially-advantaged groups. We can't rule out the effects of social standing on drinking patterns," Dr Kelly said. "However, it may be that light-drinking mothers tend to be more relaxed and this contributes to better behavioural and cognitive outcomes in children."

Government guidelines are for women to abstain from drinking in the first three months of pregnancy due to the risk of miscarriage. Women should take no more than one or two units once or twice a week after that period and avoid binge drinking.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
News
i100
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Trust Accountant - Kent

    NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

    Geography Teacher

    £85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curre...

    Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: You must:- Speak English as a first lang...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    £17000 - £18000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: If you are a committed Te...

    Day In a Page

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style