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Study: Moderate drinking OK for expectant mothers

Thursday - 6/21/2012, 2:49pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Most American women expect at least one thing when they're expecting: They won't be drinking alcohol. But a new study released Wednesday casts doubt on that commonly accepted maxim.

Danish researchers completed a study that found children of women who drank low to moderate levels of alcohol during pregnancy suffered no setbacks.

Children whose mother's drank a large amount of alcohol showed a tendency toward low attention spans, the study found.

More than 1,600 women took part in the study and were divided into groups depending on their alcohol intake. A low intake was defined as between one and four drinks per week, a moderate intake was between four and eight and nine or more beverages were considered a high intake.

Binge drinking was defined as consuming more than five drinks in one sitting. Additionally, mothers who abstained from drinking were included as the "unexposed reference group."

At age 5, the children were tested for IQ, attention span and executive functions, such as organization, planning and self-control.

"Overall, the papers found that low to moderate weekly drinking in early pregnancy had no significant effect on neurodevelopment of children aged five years, nor did binge drinking," says the study. "However, one finding showed that high levels of alcohol, intake of 9 or more drinks per week, was associated with lower attention span amongst five year olds."

The researchers said expectant mothers should still abstain from drinking, although that remains the most conservative advice.

"More research is needed to look at long term effects of alcohol consumption on children. The best advice is to choose not to drink however small amounts have not been shown to be harmful."

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