According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. say they refrain from drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
But new findings published this week in the journal BMJ Open sought to answer whether or not research fully supports the notion that even one light drink is truly dangerous for pregnant women.
After assessing all of the research published between 1950 and July 2016, the researchers looked closely at the studies involving drinking up to 32 grams of alcohol -- equivalent to approximately two glasses of wine or two pints of beer-- but only 24 studies met the criteria for review.
“The distinction between light drinking and abstinence is indeed the point of most tension and confusion for health professionals and pregnant women,” Luisa Zuccolo, a health epidemiologist at the University of Bristol and the study’s lead author, told CNN.
“We were surprised that this very important topic was not researched as widely as expected.”
But just because the evidence for the possible dangers of light drinking during pregnancy is lacking doesn’t mean there are no risks at all, according to Janet Williams, professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Health San Antonio.
“Why not give the child the chance not to have this potential limitation or health risk in their life? There are so many other factors one can worry about, so how about one less concern? There are all sorts of non-risk-based beverages or ways to relax or express one's emotions that do not confer fetal or lifelong effects,” she said.
Still, Zuccolo and her co-authors concluded that further studies are needed to better understand alcohol’s effects on pregnant women and their unborn child.
But for now, the resounding answer from experts around the globe for pregnant women asking if that one light drink is safe: No.
Research shows that alcohol in the mother’s blood can pass through the umbilical cord and reach the baby, causing a variety of problems, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, abnormal facial features, learning disabilities and more.