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Kylie McConville

Could A Glass Of Wine During Pregnancy Make Baby Smarter?

PUBLISHED ON 01/22/2014

Should you skip the booze? Apparently not. A new study found that expectant moms who drink moderately during their pregnancies give birth to babies with better mental health when compared to moms who refrain from drinking.

But, interestingly enough, even the author of the latest study believes that just because the findings show it's okay, that doesn't mean moms-to-be should head straight for the liquor cabinet.

Janni Niclasen, a post-doctoral student at the University of Copenhagen and also co-author of the study, said, "I really think we should recommend abstaining [from drinking] during pregnancy. I really believe that even a glass of wine now and again is really damaging." Niclasen's claim is in favor of the US's stance on drinking during pregnancy: Doctors caution that any amount of alcohol could endanger baby. In Europe, however, having a glass of wine during pregnancy is considered the norm.

Because so many studies have previously show that heavy drinking causes birth defects in baby, Niclasen was curious to see how maternal drinking affected the mental health of her child. In her report she wrote, "We know that drinking heavily is really, really bad for the fetus, but we are not so certain whether or not drinking a glass of wine is OK."

In order to find out if it was, she looked at data from the Danish National Birth Cohort, which surveyed 37,000 women between 1996 and 2002. The women were asked to answer three different questions at three different times and finally, when their children were 7, the kids took a questionnaire to assess their emotions and relationships. Niclasen found that children with mothers who drank moderately during their pregnancies (about two drinks a week) had better mental health than those children who were born to moms that never touched a drink.

“The abstainers," she said, "did the poorest in all outcomes. They were the poorest educated, smoked the most, did not exercise, and watched a lot of TV." But the moms who drank twice a week did just about everything else right: They exercised regularly, didn't park it in front of the TV for hours on end, had healthy body mass indexes and were better educated.

And here's why Niclasen is so cautious when it comes to the study's results. She says that the drawbacks of maternal alcohol studies is that the moms self-report their drinking habits typically over — or under — estimate how much they're actually having.

So for now, she's airing on the side of caution — for mom's health and baby's.

Did you have a drink during your pregnancy? Would you?

PHOTO: Thinkstock / The Bump