For decades, pregnant women have been told to avoid alcohol at all costs. Even women who are not yet pregnant but considering pregnancy are advised to abstain. But a new study is calling this advice into question, suggesting that light drinking during pregnancy might be okay for both mom and her baby.

The study, just published in the British Medical Journal, found that moderate drinking during pregnancy may not harm a baby's neurodevelopment. What is moderate drinking? It can be as little as one glass or as much as seven glasses of alcohol per week.  

For the study, researchers from the University of Bristol looked at data from almost 7,000 10-year-olds and their moms. The kids underwent a 20-minute balance assessment — walking across a balance beam, standing still, walking heel-to-toe, balancing on the beam with eyes closed, and standing on one leg. Research has shown that the ability to balance is a strong indicator of prenatal neurodevelopment.  

The children were all born in the early '90s. Their mothers had completed questionnaires during pregnancy about their current alcohol consumption, as well as about how much they used to drink before they became pregnant. The researchers compared this data to the kids' performance on the balance test 10 years later. The study was controlled for maternal age, smoking behavior, caffeine and even the amount of alcohol consumed by the father.  

The study showed that moderate drinking did not affect the children's ability to balance whether walking or standing still.

It certainly seems odd to claim that drinking during pregnancy might be okay for babies based on one series of balance tests. What about other aspects of a baby's development? Alcohol has been shown to affect not only a baby's nervous system, but also her weight at birth, her ability to learn, her future behavior and even her hearing.  

Current U.S. recommendations say there is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy. From the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

"Can I drink alcohol if I am pregnant?

No. Do not drink alcohol when you are pregnant. Why? Because when you drink alcohol, so does your baby. Think about it. Everything you drink, your baby also drinks."

In the end, a pregnant woman's decision to drink or not drink should be between her and her OBGYN. Every woman is different just as every baby's growth and development will be different regardless of what his mother eats or drinks. But when it comes down to it, it's also one risk of many that can be completely avoided by simply trading in wine for water.

Do you think it's safe for a woman to drink during pregnancy? 

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