Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Danes say pregnancy drinking ok, NZ says no

Danish researchers have found drinking in early pregnancy isn't as bad for children's neurodevelopment - but Kiwi experts disagree. Photo / file
Danish researchers have found drinking in early pregnancy isn't as bad for children's neurodevelopment - but Kiwi experts disagree. Photo / file

Drinking in early pregnancy is not associated with adverse effects in children, says new research, but Kiwi experts says the findings are no reason for pregnant mums to "pop the champagne".

Danish researchers have produced five papers looking at the effects of low, moderate, high and binge drinking on young children.

The papers, published this week in the journal BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, looked at the effects of alcohol on IQ, attention span, executive functions such as planning, organisation, and self-control in five-year-olds.

Overall, the researchers found that low to moderate weekly drinking in early pregnancy had no significant effect on their neurodevelopment - and neither did occasional binge drinking.

However, high levels of alcohol intake - nine or more drinks per week - was associated with lower attention span.

Co-authors Ulrik Schiler Kesmodel said: "Our findings show that low to moderate drinking is not associated with adverse effects on the children aged five. However, despite these findings, additional large-scale studies should be undertaken to further investigate the possible effects."

But Christine Rogan of Alcohol Healthwatch said: "These types of studies do not provide a reason for pregnant mums to pop the champagne. Sadly though that is often the effect they have.

"The public (media) love good news headlines about drinking and the headline always wins, no matter the fine print such as the authors themselves conclude that no safe level of consumption has been established."

Professor Jennie Connor from Otago University added: "The detrimental effects of being exposed to heavy drinking in utero on cognitive function and behaviour in children is well documented.

"This Danish study is an important addition to our understanding, and suggests that very low volumes of drinking do not have effects on child development that are detectable using a selection of standard tests at age five.

"There is a risk that this information could lead women to believe that it is reasonable to drink during pregnancy as long as it is not 'too much'."

- APNZ

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