Pregnant women who drink one or two units of alcohol a week don't do any harm to their unborn baby, says new research.
In fact, claims the study, a glass of wine while pregnant may actually have benefits.
The findings, from a team of researchers at University College London, will reignite the debate over drinking while pregnant, as current government advice is that women should avoid alcohol altogether.
The research involved more than 11,000 women, who were asked about their drinking habits and their child's behaviour at intervals until they were aged five.
Women were divided into different categories: non-drinkers, those who gave up while pregnant, light drinkers (those who drank one or two units a week), moderate drinkers (those who drank up to six units), and heavy drinkers.
It was found that light drinkers were 30 per cent less likely to have children with social or emotional difficulties than those who did not drink at all in pregnancy.
The study is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, and concludes that women can safely drink a 155ml glass of wine, a 50ml glass of spirits or just under a pint of beer each week without damaging foetal development.
However, the risk of behavioural and emotional problems increases among children who are born to women who drink more than this during pregnancy. Potential problems of drinking excessively include Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, which can cause severe intellectual impairment, hyperactivity and facial deformity, while more mild symptoms including lower IQs and emotional difficulties.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Dr Yvonne Kelly, who led the research team at University College London, said: 'We are not advocating that people change their behaviour and drink to improve their child's health, because this is not the message at all.'
Experts from the National Organisation For Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) believe that the study is flawed because it only looked at children up to the age of five, while some problems might not manifest until age seven.
And a spokesman for the Department of Health told the Daily Telegraph: 'After assessing the available evidence, we cannot say with confidence that drinking during pregnancy is safe and will not harm your baby. Therefore, as a precautionary measure, our advice to pregnant women and women trying to conceive is to avoid alcohol.'
What do you think?
Do you think it's fine to enjoy a glass of wine in pregnancy or better to stop totally?
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