In case you've missed the memo, pregnant people no longer need to avoid alcohol at all costs.
We get why that might seem terrible to say, given the alarmist warnings health organizations like the CDC shout out. "There is no safe time during pregnancy to drink. All types of alcohol are equally harmful, including all wines and beer. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her baby," the CDC website reads.
But more and more doctors are comfortable telling their pregnant patients that having one drink every once in a while isn't going to cause irreparable harm to their child-to-be. And there's even scientific evidence to back that up — or rather, lack of evidence.
Researchers at Bristol University in the UK recently reviewed 26 studies that questioned whether light drinking was harmful to a fetus and found that there's a surprising lack of evidence that moderate drinking should be off limits, the New York Post reports. The review looked for complications in pregnancy and birth characteristics associated with alcohol consumption, such as miscarriage, premature birth, and undersized babies, as well as long term issues, like those typical of fetal alcohol syndrome.
What they found was an 8% increase in the likelihood of having a smaller than average baby and a 10% increase in the possibility of a premature birth if the pregnant person had four units of alcohol a week (which is 32 grams of pure alcohol, or a little more than two standard drinks).
Overall, though, there wasn't much evidence that light drinking during pregnancy causes harm to the fetus. Researchers can't ethically do a true study to determine exactly how much alcohol a pregnant person can drink before it crosses the line and hurts the fetus, so there's no evidence there, either. The recommendation to abstain totally, the researchers said, seems to come from a "better safe than sorry" attitude since, as the CDC states, health professionals don't have hard evidence about how much alcohol is safe.
“Women who have had a drink while pregnant should be reassured that they are unlikely to have caused their baby considerable harm," Loubaba Mamluk, PhD, senior research associate, said in the study. But, as always, it's best to check in with your doctor if you're concerned.
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about or passing on kids, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.
Read these stories next: