Alcohol During Pregnancy: Effects of Drinking May Surprise You

Alcohol during pregnancy is a major societal concern. It’s clear that repeatedly heavy alcohol drinking by pregnant women increases the risk of negative effects on the fetus. These include premature birth, small size, and low birth weight. The most serious  such possible effect is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

alcohol during pregnancyHowever, much less is known about the possible effects of occasional or of low and moderate alcohol consumption. Most studies have not detected any negative effects from these drinking patterns.

Alcohol During Pregnancy: The Study

This research explored this important matter. It used a pooled sample of about 180,000 women and 193,747 births. The mothers were from nine European cohorts in Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain.

The researchers defined light to moderate consumption as having up to six drinks per week. This level did not increase the incidence of premature birth, small size, or low birth weight. These findings are consistent with those of many other recent studies.

The Findings

alcohol during pregnancyMothers who drank more than lightly to moderately tended to have increased risk of two of the three outcomes. Those were having a small or low a birth weight infant. Heavier drinking had no impact on premature birth.

This study also found a dramatic decline in the proportion of pregnant women over time. Before 2000, about half the women drank during their pregnancy. During the period of 2000–2004, it dropped to 39%. It plummeted down to 14% in 2005–2011.

Popular Resources on Pregnancy


Alcohol During PregnancyJarosh, W. Healthy, Happy, Happy Pregnancy Cookbook. NY: Atria, 2016.

Barratt, J. and Biswas, C. The Pregnancy Encyclopedia. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2016.

Blott, M. and Morris, J. Pregnancy Day-by-Day. Hawthorn, Aus: Dorling Kindersley, 2015.

Clarke, S. and Willow, J. Healthy, Happy Pregnancy CookbookNY: Atria, 2016. 

Dolan, S. and Kelly, A. Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby. The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide. NY: HarperOne, 2013.

Duigan, J., et al. Clean & Lean Pregnancy Guide. London: Kyle, 2014.

Geddes, L. Bumpology: The Myth-busting Pregnancy Book for Curious Parents-to-be. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

Glicksman, M. and DiGeronimo, T. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth. NY: Alpha, 2010.

Ricciotti, H. and Connelly, V. The Pregnancy Cookbook. NY: Norton, 1996.


Strandberg-Larsen, K., et al.  Association of light-to-moderate alcohol drinking in pregnancy with preterm birth and birth weight. Elucidating bias by pooling data from nine European cohorts.  Eur J Epidem, 2017 pre-publication; DOI 10.1007/s10654-017-0323-2