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Health & Pregnancy

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Could 'Moderate' Drinking Be Safe During Pregnancy?

British study finds no problems with balance in kids, but some experts have concerns about the findings


By the time their children were 4 years of age, 50 percent of the mothers said they consumed three to seven glasses of alcohol weekly. The research team noted that those who drank moderately were older, more affluent and better educated.

At the age of 10, the children underwent two balance tests, which included walking across a balance beam (to assess so-called "dynamic balance"); standing heel-to-toe on a beam with eyes open and closed (to assess "static balance"); and standing on just one leg, eyes open and closed.

The result: moderate maternal (and paternal) drinking while pregnant, and maternal drinking after delivery appeared to be associated with better overall balance, particularly in terms of static balance.

Maternal genetic testing further revealed that the children of mothers who had a so-called "low alcohol" gene (known to reduce drinking behaviors) did not perform worse on the balance tests than those whose mothers didn't have the gene.

Dr. Francine Einstein, from the department of obstetrics & gynecology and women's health at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, described the study as "interesting" while cautioning that self-reports about alcohol consumption "must be taken with a grain of salt."

"Some women may not recall how much they drank or may under-report use, particularly when there is a social stigma associated with what you are asking about," she noted. So "getting an accurate assessment of how much alcohol a child was exposed to is going to be difficult."

Reading and math skills should also be assessed, she added, as should the impact of other nondrinking factors -- such family wealth -- on a child's performance.

"For these reasons, I would be reluctant to tell my patients that drinking in pregnancy is a good idea," Einstein said.

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