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No level of alcohol consumption is safe during pregnancy

A study shows that even small levels of consumption can negatively affect infants

Photo (c) Highwaystarz Photography - Getty Images
Many expectant mothers try to make better choices during pregnancy to ensure that their babies are healthy. While some experts have said that having the occasional alcoholic beverage is fine for infants’ health and development, a new study begs to differ. 

Researchers found that expectant mothers may want to consider eliminating alcohol entirely -- even on special occasions -- as newborns could be at an increased risk of developing diabetes when mothers imbibe even minimally. 

For the purposes of the study, the researchers gave pregnant mice enough alcohol to make their blood alcohol content 0.05 percent, similar to what a pregnant woman’s would be with one or two drinks. While female offspring weren’t affected by the alcohol intake, the study revealed that newborn male mice became resistant to insulin at around the six-month mark, effectively increasing their risk of developing diabetes. 

The researchers hypothesize that the male mice’s lack of estrogen, which has been found to protect against insulin resistance, could explain why they were experiencing issues with blood sugar. More broadly, the researchers hope that these findings shed light on the severity of the effects that alcohol can have on newborns. 

“Even a small amount of alcohol during pregnancy can be harmful, so if you’re planning to get pregnant don’t drink,” said researcher Lisa Akison. “Families, partners, and friends should support a woman’s choice not to drink alcohol during pregnancy.” 

Akison does note that women who are still unsure of their pregnancy status shouldn’t have reason to worry if they’ve been drinking, so long as they adopt healthy habits for the duration of their pregnancies. 

Long-lasting effects of drinking during pregnancy

Alcohol can have damaging health effects for any consumer, but it’s important for pregnant mothers to understand how drinking during pregnancy can affect their babies -- and also future generations to come.  

Researchers have found that pregnant women who consume alcohol increase the likelihood of birth defects for their own babies. Even worse, their genes can carry over and affect the neurological development of their grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. The tests revealed that prenatal exposure to alcohol led future generations to have issues with sensory-motor skills, low body weight, and struggles with depression and anxiety. 

“Traditionally, prenatal ethanol exposure (PrEE) from maternal consumption of alcohol, was thought to solely impact directly exposed offspring, the embryo or fetus in the womb,” said researcher Kelly Huffman. “However, we now have evidence that the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure could persist transgenerationally and negatively impact the next-generations of offspring who were never exposed to alcohol.”

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