(The following excerpt from Drinking During Pregnancy: Even A Little Impairs Childhood Academics by James Hamblin recently appeared on theatlantic.com. To view this post in its entirety click on the link below.)
Drinking during pregnancy is still the number one preventable cause of birth defects in the U.S. The problems that result from fetal alcohol exposure—at any stage of pregnancy, including before the woman knows she is pregnant—can appear any time during childhood and last forever.
That said, eight percent of pregnant women in the U.S. report drinking. Among the often complex reasons for that, some studies have shown ambiguity with regard to mild drinking. Some research has said it could even be beneficial. Recommendations are at odds from doctors and government agencies. In most countries, including the U.S., the reigning guideline is total abstinence. The official position of the National Institutes of Health:
Research shows that binge drinking, which means consuming four or more drinks per occasion, and regular heavy drinking put a fetus at the greatest risk for severe problems. But even lesser amounts can cause damage.