Light drinking during pregnancy study adds to mixed messaging, says Swanswell

17 April 2013

Research suggesting that light drinking during pregnancy does not harm child behavioural or mental development only adds to the mixed messages around alcohol use, says Swanswell.

The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding to news of a study of the abilities of 10,534 seven-year-olds, whose mothers either abstained from alcohol or drank lightly during pregnancy (reports BBC News).

Researchers found little difference between the two groups and reported their findings in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

The government’s guidelines say that women should avoid alcohol during pregnancy but if they do choose to drink, to have no more than two units a week, or just under the equivalent of a 175ml glass of 12% white wine (2.1 units).

But Swanswell believes the only way to be sure that children aren’t put at risk from alcohol harm during pregnancy is not to drink at all.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘There’s already a bewildering amount of health advice out there for women during pregnancy, so regularly conflicting information about whether or not it’s safe to drink alcohol only adds to the confusion.

It’s often difficult for people to know just how many units they’ve had – one glass of wine could put someone over the ‘two units maximum’ guidelines mentioned by this research but to what extent will depend on the size of the glass and the strength of the drink.

Before long, one drink turns to two, maybe three, and that could lead to health risks such as Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, so the best way to be sure that alcohol does not harm your baby, is not to drink alcohol at all during pregnancy.’

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, or FASD, is an umbrella term for a range of conditions caused by excessive alcohol exposure in the womb.

Effects of FASD can by physical – such as particular facial characteristics – but also mental or behavioural, such as anxiety, social communication difficulties, poor attention and even criminal behaviour (Source: FASD Trust).

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