Light Drinking During Pregnancy May be Beneficial for Children

A study of 12,495 three-year-old children found that those born to mothers who drank light amounts of alcohol (beer, wine or spirits) during pregnancy had fewer conduct, emotional and peer problems than did those born to abstaining mothers or those who drank heavily while pregnant.

The research used a nationally representative sample of infants born in the United Kingdom and utilized the U.K. Millennium Cohort Study, a project following the health of children born between 2000 and 2002 in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Boys born to light drinkers had 40% fewer conduct problems, were 30% less likely to suffer hyperactivity, and received higher scores on tests of vocabulary and of ability to identify colors, shapes, letters and numbers than did those born to abstainers.

Girls born to light drinkers were 30 percent less likely to have emotional symptoms and peer problems compared with those born to abstainers during pregnancy.

Children born to heavy drinkers (two percent of the total mothers) were more likely to exhibit problems.

Lead researcher Dr. Yvonne Kelly said the study raises questions as to "whether the current push for policy to recommend complete abstinence during pregnancy is merited."

The U.K government recommends that women abstain during pregnancy and that if they choose to drink, they should drink no more than one or two units of alcohol once or twice a week and should not get drunk.

Note: This site provides no medical opinion or advice and none should be inferred. For medical questions or advice, consult a qualified medical provider.


  • Yvonne Kelly, Amanda Sacker, Ron Gray, John Kelly, Dieter Wolke, and Maria A Quigley. Light drinking in pregnancy, a risk for behavioural problems and cognitive deficits at 3 years of age? International Journal of Epidemiology, Advance Access published on October 30, 2008; doi:10.1093/ije/dyn230

Filed Under: Womens Health