Drinking During Pregnancy: What are Its Effects?

Moderate drinking during pregnancy. That’s an important subject.

To learn more, doctors studied 4,496 women. They followed the women throughout their pregnancies and after the birth of their children.

The researchers focused on low to moderate drinking during pregnancy. The first trimester (three months) of pregnancy is crucial. Such drinkers had a large reduced risk of having an infant with low birth weight. They also had a lower risk of bearing an infant of shorter length or smaller head.

Some women were low to moderate drinkers during the third trimester of pregnancy. They had a greatly reduced risk of bearing a preterm infant.

It appears that low-to-moderate drinking during pregnancy (first and third trimester) pregnancy does not lead to problems. That is, to greater risk of low birth weight, pre-birth growth problems, or premature birth.

drinking during pregnancyPeople are very emotional about the subject of drinking during pregnancy. Servers have refused to let pregnant women order a glass of wine with meals. Some have panicked after having eaten wine vinegar on a salad. (Of course, wine vinegar contains no alcohol.) These fears are not rational.

The medical research does not support such actions and emotions. Most women choose not to drink during pregnancy. Of those who do, most drink little and not very often.

A small number of women tend to have most of the problems caused by drinking during pregnancy. They are usually alcohol abusers or alcoholics. Many are drug addicts, don’t obtain medical care, and have other problems. And they continue to drink much too much alcohol. That seriously endangers their unborn, who may get FAS or other problems.

Women who choose to have a drink can do so knowing that it is consistent with medical research evidence. But it is possible that moderate drinking during pregnancy might cause some yet unknown harm. Therefore, the most cautious choice is no drinking during pregnancy.

In the US, moderate drinking for a woman is no more than one drink per day. It can be beer, wine, or spirits. Spirits is ‘liquor’ such as vodka, whiskey, gin, rye, and rum.

To drink or not while expecting. It’s always good to talk with a doctor about such decisions.


 Popular Books

Champion, P. and McCormick. Eating and Drinking in Labour. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2002.

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.

Research Studies

Bakker, R., et al. Associations of light and moderate maternal alcohol consumption with fetal growth characteristics in different periods of pregnancy. Int J Epid., 2010, 39(3), 777-789.

Keeffe, L.M., et al. Maternal alcohol use during pregnancy and offspring trajectories of height and weight. Drug Alc Depen. Published early online 12 March 2015.

Lundsberg, L.S., et al. Low-to-moderate prenatal alcohol consumption and the risk of selected birth outcomes. Ann Epid., 2014, 25, 46-54.


Lundsberg, L., et al.  Low-to-moderate prenatal alcohol consumption and the risk of selected birth outcomes. Ann Epidemi, 2015, 25(1), 46-54.