Children 'more likely to be badly behaved' if their mother drinks more than two glasses of wine
Just one night out during pregnancy can have long-lasting effects on the child’s behaviour, a study suggests.
Youngsters exposed to one or two binges of alcohol in the womb were more likely to have short attention spans and be badly behaved at the age of seven, it said.
A binge was classified as two-and-a-half large glasses of wine or more. This could concern many women who enjoy drinks with friends before realising they are pregnant.
The Danish study tracked the health of more than 30,000 babies born to women who had been asked about drinking in pregnancy. A binge was defined as downing at least 7.5 units of alcohol in one session, with a large wine containing three units.
When the children were seven, the mothers filled in a another questionnaire about their behaviour. The results revealed the lasting influence of binge drinking in pregnancy.
The impact was much bigger on children whose mothers drank in late pregnancy but subtle differences occurred in those exposed to binges early on.
Worryingly, most of the women had only indulged once or twice in the first 16 weeks of expecting.
Researcher Janni Niclasen said: ‘If you expose your child to one or two binges in early pregnancy, the brain will be less flexible. When that child grows up and is put in a difficult situation, it might make a difference to the way that child will cope.’
She added: ‘Women really shouldn’t panic. They should think about what they eat and drink for the rest of their pregnancy.’
Dr Niclasen, of Copenhagen University, also warned that binge drinking early in pregnancy is known to raise the risk of miscarriages, stillbirths and birth defects.
In a second study, she suggested that baby boys appear to be particularly vulnerable, perhaps because male and female brains develop slightly differently.
The doctor, whose research is published in the European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry journal, advised mothers-to-be not to drink alcohol at all.
Patrick O’Brien, of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said a foetus exposed to binge drinking in the first week or two of pregnancy will, in general, be miscarried or survive unscathed.
Linda Geddes, author of Bumpology, said other studies hint that babies are particularly sensitive to alcohol in weeks seven to 12, by which time many more women know they are pregnant.