Drinking and smoking ‘of any level’ while pregnant may harm baby’s development, study says

pregnant pause photocredit monica simon x
Credit: Monica Simon

If you’re stressed or wanting to enjoy virtual happy hour with friends while pregnant, having a glass of wine every so often may seem like a relaxing plan.

But that behavior runs counter to a study published [May 12] in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Researchers found drinking or smoking of any level while pregnant — from low to high, and even if you quit early — influenced the brain development of the mothers’ newborns.


Previous studies have shown the effects alcohol and tobacco exposure have on specific areas of the brain involved in the baby’s ability to regulate their heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and temperature, [researcher William] Fifer said.

Related article:  If you can't remember your dreams, is there something wrong with you?

“All of those are extremely important to survive those first few months,” he added. “We’re finding a reflection of that in our measures of brain activity just while they’re sleeping during the newborn period.”

The authors plan to examine additional exposures and lifestyle factors that may affect long-term neurodevelopmental function.

More research is yet to come, but for now, the research shows it’s best to consider an alcohol-free mocktail at that Zoom get-together or baby shower while pregnant.


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