Pregnant? Have a Cocktail

Christine Whelan | Posted on 06/10/10

A 13-year study of Australian mothers and their children has found that light drinking - 2 to 6 drinks per week - might be the reason why some kids are better behaved than others.

According to Reuters 

Compared with mothers who did not drink in the first 3 months of pregnancy, those who were light drinkers during this time had better behaved children over 14 years, as indicated by better scores on a standard checklist used by psychologists.

Children of light to moderate drinkers early in pregnancy had a "clinically meaningful" lower risk of internalizing behavior (in which negativity is directed inwards, for example depression) and externalizing behavior (such as aggression), than children of nondrinkers.

Fetal alcohol syndrome is still serious -- and no doctor is telling women to get plastered when they see those double lines. But could a little bit of boozin' help Baby grow calm and healthy? Just the suggestion of this is counter-cultural: Pregnant ladies get the evil eye if they are seen even holding a glass of wine. So to go from saying "light drinking is OK" -- as many doctors do -- to saying it's beneficial? Well, well, well.

What's unclear is how the researchers could control for the lifestyle factors that are associated with light drinking. Are we talking about the benefits of a glass of wine qua wine, or are we talking about the benefits of sitting down, enjoying a meal and conversation with friends, relaxing and sipping a cool drink on a hot day?

The sociologist in me isn't convinced that it's the alcohol that's the factor: My vote is that chilled-out moms-to-be -- and those who have the self-control to only have one drink at a sitting as opposed to binging on five -- are going to be better parents and socialize happier kids.

Everything in moderation. Exercising the virtues of balance, relaxation and self-control -- knowing when to stop working and enjoy the company of friends and family, and knowing that one glass is quite enough to allow those social benefits -- seems to be the key to wellbeing for mothers, babies and the rest of us, too.

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