I just could not help myself: that glass of chilled Riesling was calling out to my neglected taste buds “come, take a sip…” All I meant to do was take a good whiff of its aromas, but then my lips took over, and then, and then, ecstasy! My word, how enjoying even a sip of a glass of wine can turn into a sublime experience…
Good wine is one of life’s greatest pleasures. On this occasion – a night out with my sisters – the evening took us to a terrific pub in Sydney where the food is modern, the service standards high and the wine list really tempting. Never being a big drinker before, something deep inside of me cracked that night and insisted I wet my palate with the ambrosial fluids, the colour of artesian ginger ale. It was Marlen’s glass which all I meant to do was sniff…
The limits on drinking while pregnant are based, for the most part, on strong medical research. Frequent heavy drinking or binge drinking can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, with serious long-term consequences for a wee Seahorse, for example cognitive deficits.
But all drinking isn’t created equal. There is no credible evidence that low levels of drinking (a glass of wine or so a day) have any impact on a baby’s cognitive development.
And since I am by no means a “heavy drinker”, my question: what is the impact of light drinking on pregnancy? One of the best studies of this issue was published in 2010 in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. What makes it a reliable study? The sample group was large (3,000 Australian women), and the researchers collected information about maternal drinking during pregnancy—not afterward. The study also followed the children of these women through the age of 14 and looked at behavior problems starting at age 2.
Drinkers in the study were classified in five groups: no alcohol, occasional drinking (up to one drink a week), light drinking (2-6 drinks a week) and moderate drinking (7-10 drinks a week).
The researchers compared the mothers’ drinking level at 18 weeks of pregnancy
with the children’s behavior issues at age 2. They found that 11% of the
children whose mothers did not drink during pregnancy had behavior
problems—versus 9% of the children of light drinkers and 11% of the children of
moderate drinkers. The results were very similar for older kids.
The evidence overwhelmingly shows that light drinking is fine. Of course, this is sensitive to timing: the speed of drinking, and whether you are eating at the same time, matters. It isn’t that complicated: drink like a European adult, not like a horny teenager. And this is what I did on a fine night when three sisters took to the town to celebrate one sister being 28 weeks pregnant: I sipped delicately the precious vin, and responsibly handed back the glass.