CHICAGO (CBS) – Drinking alcohol has long been considered taboo for pregnant women. But, as CBS 2’s Mary Kay Kleist reports, new research says it may be OK to drink occasionally.

Julie Nowak enjoys a glass of wine with family and friends now and then. Even back when she was pregnant, she drank light amounts of alcohol.

“I certainly would never get to the point where I felt out of control or buzzed, or even silly,” Nowak said. “It was just more of a calming type thing.”

Nowak is the mother of two healthy children.

“I would have a half a glass to three-quarters of a glass of red wine every week, every other week, throughout the third trimester,” she said.

That was with her first pregnancy. During her second pregnancy, she had an occasional glass of wine starting around the six-month mark.

Dr. Lisa Oldham from Rush University Medical Center agrees that light amounts may be OK.

“A small amount of alcohol every so often during your pregnancy is very unlikely to create a problem for your unborn fetus,” Dr. Oldham said.

New research published last month by the “Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health” suggested that an occasional drink does not raise the risk of developmental problems in children.

Mothers of 11,000 children were asked about their drinking habits during pregnancy. The study found that babies born to light drinkers, who had five ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer a week, had no additional risk.

But raising a glass has some experts raising their concerns.

Dr. Larry Gray from Comer Children’s Hospital, University of Chicago said, “This data is not a green light for drinking during pregnancy.”

Dr. Gray treats children who had prenatal alcohol exposure and now suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. He cautions that one glass of wine doesn’t have the same effect on all women.

“A mother’s metabolism of alcohol can vary widely, and so that really exposes the baby to more or less risk based on that one glass of alcohol,” he said.

April Leong is just a few weeks from her due date. She says it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“I’m not craving it. I don’t need it,” Leong said.
For Julie Nowak, the new research gives her peace of mind.

“You feel a little bit better about it. And obviously you don’t want to see a drunk, pregnant woman, but in moderation, I think it’s fine,” Nowak said.

One doctor we spoke with said we would see a lot more Fetal Alcohol Syndrome if it really was a problem to drink very small, limited amounts of alcohol.

But, in this country, there is real concern about this issue and there is so much we don’t know. The best advice is to talk to your doctor.

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