London, Oct 6 (ANI): A new study has suggested that drinking one or two units of alcohol in a week during pregnancy does not increase the risk of developmental problems in the child.
Although official advice remains that women should completely avoid alcohol during pregnancy, a study of more than 11,000 five-year-olds found no evidence of harm.
The study, led by University College London but involving three other UK universities, is the second by this group examining large numbers of children looking for signs that brain development had been affected.
The first had found no evidence of problems at age three, but the latest study extended the checks until school age to make sure nothing had emerged later.
The same result appeared, with no extra risk of behavioural and emotional issues compared with children whose mothers had abstained during pregnancy.
In fact, the children born to light drinkers appeared slightly less likely to suffer behavioural problems, and scored higher on cognitive tests, compared with women who stopped during pregnancy.
"There's now a growing body of robust evidence that there is no increase in developmental difficulties associated with light drinking during pregnancy," the BBC quoted Yvonne Kelly of the UCL as saying.
However, a spokesman for the Department of Health said that its advice would remain unchanged to avoid confusion among pregnant women.
"After assessing the available evidence, we cannot say with confidence that drinking during pregnancy is safe and will not harm your baby.
"Therefore, as a precautionary measure, our advice to pregnant women and women trying to conceive is to avoid alcohol," said the spokesman.
Chris Sorek of alcohol awareness charity Drinkaware said: "Despite these findings, it is important to remember that 'light drinking' can mean different things to different people.
"There is a risk that if pregnant women take this research as a green light to drink a small amount, they could become complacent, drink more than they think they are and inadvertently cause harm to their unborn child."
The findings were published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. (ANI)