BRISTOL, U.K. — Every trimester during pregnancy is important, but researchers are now hoping women will focus on something else too — the “drymester.”
A review of several published studies has concluded that drinking any alcohol during pregnancy could lead to the child having poorer thinking and learning abilities later in life. Researchers at the University of Bristol in England say they went through 23 different studies and found a likely connection between drinking and lower cognitive abilities.
Researchers say the only sure way to avoid these side-effects is to enjoy the “drymester,” a new social campaign in the U.K. where expecting mothers avoid drinking throughout their entire pregnancy.
“We found a likely causal detrimental role of prenatal alcohol exposure on cognitive outcomes,” the study’s authors wrote in the journal International Journal of Epidemiology.
Researchers looked at two kinds of studies involving drinking during pregnancy. The traditional studies included randomized and controlled trials with patients. The alternative studies looked at several methods of gathering data including comparing children from the same family where the mother either increased or decreased her drinking between pregnancies.
Studies Aren’t Perfect
Although 23 different publications were reviewed, researchers say these kinds of studies have their limitations. The Bristol team found that it can be impossible to specifically pick out what issues were caused by alcohol and what were caused by other factors in a woman’s life. Some of those factors include the mother’s own cognitive skills, her family environment, or even a different genetic factor affecting the child.
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When it comes to the “observational” studies of pregnant women, the research team says that information should be “interpreted with caution.”
The University of Bristol adds that looking at both types of studies helps to weed out “confounding” information. Researchers say the fact that all the data seems to point to the same warning signs makes their results more reliable.
“The body of evidence for the harm that alcohol can do to children before they are born is growing, and our review is the first to look at the full range of studies on the issue,” Dr. Luisa Zuccolo said in a statement.
“This is unlikely to be a fluke result… Our work confirms the current scientific consensus: that consuming alcohol during pregnancy can affect one’s child’s cognitive abilities later in life.”
The review also found evidence that drinking during pregnancy could lead to the child having a lower birthweight, but the scientists say those results were not as strong as the links to lower cognitive function.