Berlin, Germany, a pregnant woman with red wine
A new Danish study finds that pregnant women who drank a small amount of alcohol tended to be healthier in other ways than mothers-to-be who abstained altogether, suggesting other factors need to be considered when looking at the effects of light drinking vs. abstaining during pregnancy.

LiveScience reports that the study involved 63,000 pregnant women in Denmark, with women who drank a small amount more likely to exercise and have a normal body mass index compared to women who didn't drink alcohol. They also watched less television, ate more fish and consumed less soda.

"Women who drink and women who do not drink in pregnancy are very different on a large number of characteristics," study researcher Janni Niclasen, a psychology researcher at the University of Copenhagen, told LiveScience. Pregnant moms who drink may think that because 'I'm doing everything else right, so the occasional drink may not hurt'," Niclasen suggested.

While the link between heavy alcohol consumption and health and developmental problems in children is well established, mounting evidence is now suggesting that the picture may be different for light drinking.

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In another recent study, an international team from Ireland, England, New Zealand, and Australia compared birth outcomes among 5,628 women who were pregnant for the first time between 2004 and 2011. Findings showed that drinking small amounts of alcohol during and even beyond the first trimester of pregnancy didn't seem to raise the risks of premature delivery, low birth weight, or high blood pressure for the mother. Those findings were published in October's journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Still, some experts urge that since the evidence is still not crystal clear, women should avoid alcohol altogether if they are pregnant. But, as Harvard Health Blog points out, some respected health agencies, such as the UK's Department of Health, greenlight one drink a few times a week while pregnant.

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