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A leading authority puts the debate to rest: No alcohol during pregnancy is safe.

To avoid fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, the AAP advises pregnant women against drinking anything at all.

A leading authority puts the debate to rest: No alcohol during pregnancy is safe.

Good news/bad news for women who enjoy a glass of wine now and then and are planning to get pregnant.

Cheers! Or not. Photo by Megan Eaves/Flickr.


First, the good news: After years of conflicting advice, we finally have some clear guidelines on whether it's safe to consume any alcohol during pregnancy.

The bad news? You might want to re-cork that bottle and un-shake that martini because a new clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that even an occasional drink is no good.

Sigh.

But hey, let's focus on the bright side. Those clear guidelines are super useful for expectant mothers and soon-to-be expectant mothers. The fact is, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are totally preventable, and this report is finally giving us the clear info we need.

First, a quick definition: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are a group of of conditions that can result from alcohol exposure during pregnancy.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the effects of FASD can include behavior and physical problems, such as trouble with the following:

- Learning and remembering
- Understanding and following directions
- Controlling emotions
- Communicating and socializing
- Daily life skills, such as feeding and bathing



For years, research, experts, and doctors couldn't definitively agree on whether any amount of alcohol could cause FASD.

Cheers? Maybe not... Photo via iStock.

In fact, just one year ago, a large-scale study concluded that "moderate" drinking during pregnancy was OK. Today Parents reported on the study, which actually found that "expectant mothers who drink moderately have children with better mental health than children of mothers who abstain."

But then, as it usually goes when the conversation turns to drinking during pregnancy, we got a conflicting opinion — from none other than the co-author of the very study that came to that conclusion.

"I really think we should recommend abstaining [from drinking] during pregnancy," said study co-author Janni Niclasen, who was a post-doctoral student at the University of Copenhagen. "I really believe that even a glass of wine now and again is really damaging."

You can see why we'd all be a little confused ... until this week, when the AAP drew a clear, hard line in the sand.

Photo by J.K. Califf/Flickr.

No ambiguity here. They named "prenatal exposure to alcohol as the leading preventable cause of birth defects and intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities in children."

The clinical report was published in the November issue of Pediatrics, and the abstract contained clear-cut information:

"During pregnancy:
- no amount of alcohol intake should be considered safe;
- there is no safe trimester to drink alcohol;
- all forms of alcohol, such as beer, wine, and liquor, pose similar risk; and
- binge drinking poses dose-related risk to the developing fetus."



The AAP also shared the increased odds of having a baby with FASD:

  • Compared with consuming no alcohol, drinking during first trimester increased the odds by 12 times.
  • Drinking during the first and second trimester increased the odds by 61 times.
  • Drinking during all three trimesters increased the odds by 65 times.

The conclusion from Dr. Janet F. Williams, a lead researcher? "The research suggests that the smartest choice for women who are pregnant is to just abstain from alcohol completely."

Good to know. But, look: Parenting is fraught with judgment from everyone, pretty much from the moment a woman announces she's expecting.

Which is why this new information shouldn't be used to judge moms for past choices. It's there to help expecting mothers make the best decisions possible for themselves and their babies.

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Anne Owens and Luke Redito / Wikimedia Commons
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