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New IQ research prompts warning over drinking alcohol during pregnancy

(210 Posts)
FirstTimeForEverything Thu 15-Nov-12 09:47:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ChunkyPickle Thu 15-Nov-12 16:05:06

This line is important - before you start even thinking about the rest of the problems:

For all categories of allele score, drinking during pregnancy was associated with a higher IQ score in the child.

so, you start with a higher average than the non-drinkers, then you knock off 1.8 points for every allele match.

The average IQ for a non drinker was 103. The average for a drinker matching less than two risk alleles was 107, 3 was 105 and 4 or more 104 - so, even for the people most affected by alcohol, they were still 1 point up on the non-drinkers!

Now obviously this is where the socio-economic stuff comes in - but it's still suggesting, that the alcohol did not have a detrimental affect compared to abstinence

PhallicGiraffe Thu 15-Nov-12 16:05:43

It's not surprising, alcohol is ultimately a poison. Can it really be so hard not to drink for 9 months?

Wingdingdong Thu 15-Nov-12 16:07:40

And on the other hand, stress in pregnancy also lowers IQ...

So what to do, eh? Have the glass of wine and lower your child's IQ by a couple of points or don't have it and lower your child's IQ by a couple of points? We may as well accept that our children are totally doomed and it's all our fault. hmm

LeBFG Thu 15-Nov-12 16:09:45

Yes, I see your points Scream -

One, why didn't they refine the categories further? No idea.

Two, why didn't the educate the participants and encourage diary keeping? Generally a good idea with this sort of study. I do wonder in this case (where everyone is wary of drinking alcohol in pg) whether this would have 'primed' the participants? By keeping a diary they would have drunk less - by being told and shown what a unit was would have had an effect on how they later drank?

The key thing is not all drinkers groups had children with lowered IQ - this only occurred in groups who were genetically more susceptible.

Also, I'm sure that many of the abstinent group would also have lied...i.e. would have drunk just a little bit. Despite this, there is still a really, really convincing statistical difference between the drinkers/non-drinkers.

midseasonsale Thu 15-Nov-12 16:14:14

I have also read research/studies that state that a couple of glasses a week are fine. I was never interested in drinking though.

YoullScreamAboutItOneDay Thu 15-Nov-12 16:18:13

Looking at the study again LeBFG, the data on drinking comes from questionnaires completed for births in 91/92. I realise there will always be a long lead time to measure 8 year olds, but this data set is 20 years old. I suspect that the scientists wanted to carry out this study and tried to find a data set to use, so settled on this one and had no input into the quality of data.

I do take your point about susceptibility. I just think it is a shame that they focus on the idea of moderate drinking, when in fact their data doesn't really tell them whether it was moderate or heavy drinking they are measuring.

LeBFG Thu 15-Nov-12 16:19:55

Yes, the study is not ideal. I'm surprised that as little as 1-6 drinks a week would have had an effect though <I drank a little in my last pg>.

TinkerTills Thu 15-Nov-12 16:24:00

LeBFG "Despite this, there is still a really, really convincing statistical difference between the drinkers/non-drinkers".

I agree with you. But i'm still at a loss to what this actually means for the child. What does an reduced IQ of 7.2 points mean for the child? 9 instead of 10 GCSEs? or No GCSEs at all. I guess it depends on the baseline IQ (and how the frick do you measure something that never was).

I'm not in the researcher bashing business - i think this is as solid a piece of work as is probable in this area. But given that I drank "moderate" amounts during pregnancy I would like to know what the real world effect will be on my children. Science should be placed in context. The researchers have done a bad job of translating the effect into terms that mean something to the wider world.

YoullScreamAboutItOneDay Thu 15-Nov-12 16:25:29

But that's kind of my point. They don't know it did. They know that they had a group who presumably answered that they drunk more than one unit a week (not at least one unit a day), where a drink was a unit. Given this was 20 years ago when attitudes to alcohol in pregnancy were more laid back, it could be that the vast majority of their data set drank more like 5-10 units a week. They just can't be sure.

It is very interesting to know there may be an effect and there may be genetic susceptibility, but I just can't see the extra step of saying that there is an effect at 1-6 units.

Jane054848 Thu 15-Nov-12 16:29:09

Even if true, this is about a 1.5% difference! This is really completely insignificant. Has anyone really suffered in life from being 1.5% less intelligent than they might have been?

Another study said that being born in August (like my kids) is supposed to make life outcomes 20% worse than if they were born in September. If I'd known the results of both these surveys before my pregnancies I would have started them a few weeks later and then drunk like a fish.

higgle Thu 15-Nov-12 16:31:07

I was very lucky to develop a strong aversion to alcohol from before I even knew I was pregnant. Nature also wanted to protect me from the adverse effects of swede and cabbage.

YoullScreamAboutItOneDay Thu 15-Nov-12 16:33:30

Nature protects me from the adverse affects of swede even when not pregnant <polishes halo>

topsi Thu 15-Nov-12 16:34:54

How much is 6 units? Three glasses of wine? That is quite alot to be honest.
Also is 1.8 IQ points statistcally significant?

LeBFG Thu 15-Nov-12 16:43:56

Research papers are not good places to get 'real life' infomation from. THey report the facts, not what the facts might mean to a pg mother iyswim.

Jane: I know of two id twins. They are in their 60's with very different life outcomes. They are similar in lots of ways too of course. But small differences in environment throughout the life of an individual can build up to make a bigger difference.

So your mum drinking in pg may drop your IQ a bit - then she didn't bf. Then you had an unhealthy diet and you were born in August so dropped back at school...smoked pot at uni...drank 8 units a week through your 20's. You get my drift.

Scream: whatever the real life consumption of alcohol was in these women, the accuracy in reporting must have been the same for all groups. However, some drinkers' babies did NOT drop in IQ. Other drinkers' babies did. This shows an effect of alcohol consumption for what was probably what we would define as in the realms of moderate.

DiamondDoris Thu 15-Nov-12 16:45:08

I drank a little after 5 months - that was the advice at the time. Trouble is it keeps changing. A greater danger IMO is eating a lot of sugary things, I think I put a strain on my DD's pancreas who went onto developing diabetes at age 4. I thought a decaffeinated coffee and a slice of cake was being good (smoked then and had given up with both pregnancies).

LeBFG Thu 15-Nov-12 16:46:44

topsi Thu 15-Nov-12 16:34:54

How much is 6 units? Three glasses of wine? That is quite alot to be honest.
Also is 1.8 IQ points statistcally significant?

Three glasses a week is not a lot. This is moderate, but not low, alcohol consumption.

When you have groups as large as in this study the drop in IQ may be small but is certainly statistcally significant.

sleepyhead Thu 15-Nov-12 16:56:59

topsi - you're using the current definition of a unit of alcohol (where it's a specific measure and there can be more than one unit in a drink).

The researchers defined a unit of alcohol as one drink, so each drink could easily have had 2 or more units - particularly if people were drinking at home where it's much harder to judge and people notoriously underestimate what constitutes a "glass" of wine or a single measure of spirits (for eg).

So, it's 6 servings of alcohol they were looking at, which could be 18 units of alcohol if they were large glasses of 14% red wine.

Although, later on they asked the participants a question about "2 pints of beer" to attempt to exclude binge drinkers which would have got rid of some of the bottle-of-wine-is-only-3-glasses people..

CinnabarRed Thu 15-Nov-12 17:00:53

ReindeerBollocks: I drank a hell of a lot the weekend before I tested three weeks ago (had no idea I was pregnant and only tested due to DH's suggestion - I wasn't late). This has me worried, especially since it would normally be within the first trimester that this matters most.

I did something really similar and panicked. However, I then discovered that at the time I was drinking my baby hadn't even implanted into my womb. It was a free-floating bunch of cells deriving all of its energy and nutrients from its own internal resources. It had no connection to me and my drinking couldn't have conceivably caused an effect. IIRC, which I might not do exactly, the cells implant at 24 days after conception. I hope this puts your mind at rest.

SHRIIIEEEKPoolingBearBlood: People really think researchers are thick don't they?.

I don't, but I do think that media reports sometimes grossly distort the facts of research and that people don't understand statistics very well at all!

SquealyB Thu 15-Nov-12 17:03:35

Reality is , as other posters have said, is that although you are talking about establishing base line IQ when growing the baby, which is important, genetics and nuture will play a much more signficant role in your child's likely IQ than a few glasses of wine. This is not to denigrate importance of studys like this, simply to put them in the proper context.

So if you are sitting at home beating yourself with the bad mother stick and wondering whether you have ruined your child's chances of being the next PM (not that high IQ appears to be a prerequisite these days wink), to be head of X law firm, or to invent a cure for cancer etc. rest assured that:

(i) selecting a genetically sound partner (which we rightly have little control over do not screen for for obvious scary social engineer issues) and

(ii) providing your child with the right education, outside school learning, positive environment and general social skills (which we can and do control)

Will probably have a much greater impact on their IQ (and their happiness in later life which is not all about IQ) than a few glasses of wine while pregnant.

So chill out and drink up wink.

SquealyB Thu 15-Nov-12 17:10:31

within moderation, naturally.

AmberSocks Thu 15-Nov-12 17:13:15

tbh i see alcohol in the same way i do ciggarettes and other drugs,i wouldnt have it when pregnant.i have a feeling in the future it will be viewed how smoking is now,lots of people used to smoke during pregnnancy.

neverquitesure Thu 15-Nov-12 17:15:38

This is completely annecdotal, but I know someone who drank heavily throughout her pregnancy (she's a functioning alcoholic sad). Fortunately her DD does not appear to have dropped too many IQ points as she's very bright indeed.

Personally though I avoided alcohol like the plague with my PFB, although I did ski and scuba dive! I had the odd drink with my second baby though, but was horrified by the idea of skiing and diving. It's funny how your perception of risk alters between pregnancies.

neverquitesure Thu 15-Nov-12 17:17:30

I am so sorry about the awful spelling on that post blush

sleepyhead Thu 15-Nov-12 17:19:58

Lots of people still smoke during pregnancy. The proportion of pregnant women who smoke is very similar to the proportion of smokers in the general population (around 23% I think) as it's very, very hard to give up.

Occasional drinking in pregnancy is possibly the same as smoking a couple of cigarettes a week, but that's where smoking and drinking differ as it's quite hard to be a very occasional smoker. Although some people are and their babies are probably at minimal increased risk of low birthweight as a result.

But who knows really, and of course people are able to decide for themselves what sort of risks they are willing to tolerate, and this adds to the information we have when we calculate these risks for ourselves.

AmberSocks Thu 15-Nov-12 17:23:20

for me i just imagine that everything i put into my mouth my baby is getting.its not rocket science to see that alcohol and fags wouldnt be the best thing to put in might not even harm then but its not going to help.

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