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RCOG statement on new research suggesting moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy has an effect on children’s IQ

News 15 November 2012

New research, published today in PLOS ONE, claims that moderate levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy can influence a child’s IQ.

The researchers, from the universities of Bristol and Oxford, used data from the Children of the 90s study (ALSPAC).The study used a method of genetic variation to investigate the effects of moderate drinking (one to six units per week) during pregnancy. At age eight years the children underwent IQ tests that revealed genetic variants in alcohol-metabolising genes were strongly related to a lower IQ.

This effect was only evident among the children of mothers who were moderate drinkers, with no such effect found in the children of mothers who abstained from alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Patrick O’Brien, RCOG spokesperson said:

“This is a robust, good-quality prospective study on the topic of alcohol consumption during pregnancy which has produced significant results.

“Currently the RCOG advises that if a woman falls pregnant she should abstain from alcohol. However, small amounts of alcohol, not more than one to two units, once or twice a week, have not been shown to be harmful after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The safest approach would be to choose not to drink at all.

“Pregnant women should always consult their midwives or doctors if they have any concerns about their alcohol intake.”

This study will be looked at by the RCOG Scientific Advisory Committee for further review and discussion on current guidelines and recommendations. The RCOG welcomes high-quality research such as this which helps make sure that women have the most accurate information and advice available to them in pregnancy.


For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email