Skip to main content

Drinking While Pregnant Actually Good for Babies?

  • Author:
  • Updated:

Ronda Kaysen: Earlier this month, I reported the results of a new Australian study that found that the kids of moms who drank "moderately" (about a glass of wine a day) during pregnancy were happier and better behaved than the kids of moms who stayed off the booze.

Now, a Danish study has found that the sons of moms who drank that same amount of alcohol while pregnant -- a glass a night -- have a lower sperm count than do the sons of moms who completely abstained. But get this: If a pregnant woman drinks a glass of wine a week, her son is likely to have an incredibly potent sperm count. Go figure.

These studies can make anyone's head hurt -- especially a pregnant mom who's currently missing her Pinot. Do I reach for a glass, or recoil from it? And if I indulge, will my offspring be happy and well-adjusted, but infertile?

It seems like every week, researchers have new, contradictory information on just about everything -- and when it comes to pregnancy, the list of restrictions is ever-growing. Studies like these are interesting in that they show just how hard it is to know how much alcohol, if any, is safe during pregnancy.

In the United States, complete abstention is the general rule. But that's not true in countries like France, which endorse more lenient policies that suggest a drink a night is just fine.

The Danish study is the first of its kind, meaning that the researchers say more work is needed before any solid conclusions can be drawn. But the conclusions are pretty striking: Sons of moms who drank daily while pregnant had a sperm count that was a third lower than that of sons whose moms didn't drink at all.

"Because this is an observational study, we cannot say for certain that the alcohol causes the lower sperm concentrations," said Dr. Cecilia Ramlau-Hansen, senior researcher in the Department of Occupational Medicine at Aarhus University Hospital. "It is possible that drinking alcohol during pregnancy has a harmful effect on the fetal semen-producing tissue in the testes -- and thereby on semen quality in later life."

The Australian and Danish studies are both based on surveys, which are subject to human error. Regardless, they leave a pregnant woman to wonder not just about alcohol, but about all that she consumes during pregnancy -- and how it could affect her baby.


Popular Video