One of the cardinal rules for expectant moms: don't drink.
But a new study out of
Alcohol consumption during pregnancy that exceeded the "moderate" threshold, however, was associated with a lower attention span among children in that age group.
Despite the findings, experts who reviewed the research said it shouldn't change standard recommendations.
"These findings can easily send a very dangerous message to pregnant women," said Bruce Goldman, director of Substance Abuse Services at the
"Women may underestimate and have difficulty acknowledging the frequency or quantity of alcohol consumed," Goldman said. "Those suffering from alcoholism may attempt to rationalize that it is safe to drink moderately, something they may ultimately be unable to do."
In the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 1,600 women in the Danish National Birth Cohort. The amount of alcohol consumed by the women during their pregnancy was classified as either none, low (one to four drinks per week), moderate (five to eight drinks per week) or high (nine or more drinks per week). Binge drinking was defined as having five or more drinks on a single occasion.
At age 5, the women's children underwent tests to assess their IQ, attention span and thinking skills needed for planning, organization and self-control.
Overall, low to moderate weekly drinking during pregnancy had no significant effect on the children's brain development, the team reported. Nor did binge drinking. There was, however, a link between high levels of drinking during pregnancy and lower attention spans in offspring at age 5.
The findings appear in five different studies published June 20 in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Although it's still best for pregnant women to avoid alcohol, these results suggest that small amounts may not be a serious concern, concluded researchers led by Ulrik Schioler Kesmodel, a consultant gynecologist and associate professor at