Is it safe to drink alcohol while pregnant?

It's a question on the mind of many expectant mothers, but one that rarely receives a straight answer. The March of Dimes recommends that women do not consume any alcohol during pregnancy, but many doctors and midwives will tell you that the occasional glass of wine is nothing to worry about. Who are pregnant women supposed to believe?

Is Moderate Drinking OK During Pregnancy?

According to a series of new studies completed by researchers in Denmark, it might be. After observing the effects that various amounts of alcohol during pregnancy have on the IQ, attention span, and self-control of 5-year-olds, the Danish team found that eight or fewer drinks per week resulted in no measurable negative effects in any of these areas.

The findings, which were based on research that included over 1600 Danish women, were published in a series of five papers in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

"Low and moderate weekly alcohol consumption in early pregnancy is not associated with adverse neuropsychological effects in children aged 5," summarizes an article in the Journal.

In fact, only the children of mothers who drank heavily during pregnancy — more than nine drinks per week — demonstrated significantly reduced attention spans when compared with children whose mothers abstained from alcohol completely

Only You Can Decide

Drinking during pregnancy can have significant consequences, and fetal alcohol syndrome is a very real and dangerous condition that affects 1 out of every 750 babies born in the U.S. each year. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy has also been linked to an increased risk of birth defects.

Even the Danish researchers who conducted the latest studies were quick to point out that drinking any amount of alcohol during pregnancy cannot be officially declared "safe."

"More research is needed to look at long term effects of alcohol consumption on children. The best advice is to choose not to drink, however small amounts have not been shown to be harmful," they concluded.

A glass of wine here and there probably won't harm your baby, but unfortunately, nobody can say for sure. In the end — as with just about every other aspect of parenting — you're going to have to do your research, talk with your care provider, and make an informed decision that feels right to you.