Pregnant Women Shouldn't Drink at All: Study

Could one drink do a lifetime of damage? That's the alarming suggestion of a new study refueling the debate on drinking during pregnancy.

The only way to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome, according to pediatric researchers at University of California, San Diego, is to abstain from alcohol. Period.

"The fact that we didn't find a safe threshold is important," Christina Chambers, an associate professor of pediatrics who worked on the study, told USA Today. "Not every child of women who drink even very heavily has all the features, so there are certain susceptibility factors that we don't know."

The report, published online in the medical journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, followed the pregnancies of over 1000 women, monitoring their alcohol intake in detail. Then they followed up on their children's' health after birth.

Their findings linked shorter birth lengths with women who had at least one drink in any trimester.

They also isolated the worst possible time to take that sip: the second half of the first trimester. Between the 43rd and 84th days after conception, a single drink could increase the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome by 25 percent.

Before you're crippled with guilt over that glass of eggnog you had at Christmas, take comfort in another study out just last year. Research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that a glass of wine once or twice a week during pregnancy didn't pose any real threat. The findings even suggested a developmental advantage--boys born to moms who had a small drink every now and then during pregnancy scored higher on vocabulary and pattern creation tests. One statistician specializing in fetal alcohol syndrome told Discovery Magazine he believed the study was so efficient it should be considered the final word in the field.

But the latest findings don't recommend moms take the risk. Neither does the Center for Disease Control, which in no uncertain terms advises women not to drink at all during throughout their entire pregnancy.

"There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant," warns the CDC website. "There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink and no safe kind of alcohol." One thing that is known: pregnant women have a lot to consider when they order a cocktail.

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