Further Proof that Pregnancy and Pinot Grigio Don't Mix

By Dirk Hanson 04/12/11

According to a massive new study, even moderate drinking among pregnant women can result in premature babies who are born several months before they're due.

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The heaviest drinkers are often first-time mothers.
Photo via thinkstockphotos

There's been lots of medical debate of late about the effect of moderate alcohol on the babies of pregnant women. While most doctors insist that even minimal alcohol use poses tremendous dangers to growing fetuses, other M.D.s insist these dangers have been wildly overblown. Now a new study of 60,000 pregnant women in Ireland adds more fuel to the fire. Researchers report that women who drink more than 20 units of alcohol per week—roughly a large glass of wine each day—experience three times the number of premature births as light drinkers and non-drinkers.The study, published in the respected journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth showed that women who drank 0-5 units of booze per week did not suffer the same effect, although the scientists were quick to caution that “further research is necessary before even low amounts of alcohol can be considered safe.” Researchers said the heaviest drinkers in the study were first-time mothers, not surprising considering the link between alcohol and unprotected sex. Although the study diagnosed very few cases of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in babies born to drinking mothers, researchers warned that heavy drinking “was associated with very preterm birth rates"—with drinking mothers giving birth at an an average of 32 weeks before gestation.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]