‘Moderate drinking ‘safe’ during pregnancy’ adds to confusion, says Swanswell

20 June 2012

News that moderate drinking in early pregnancy has been branded as ‘safe’ by scientists is adding to the confusion around alcohol use, says Swanswell.

Swanswell, a national charity which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding to Danish research, published by the BJOG journal (covered on BBC News), suggesting having one to eight alcoholic drinks a week during pregnancy was not linked to harm.

Researchers found that low to moderate drinking – defined in this study as between one and eight drinks per week – during early pregnancy had no significant effect on the neurodevelopment of children at the age of five and neither did binge drinking.

In the UK, women are advised not to drink alcohol at all during pregnancy, although those who do should drink no more than one or two units, once or twice a week.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘It’s just another example of the mixed messaging around alcohol misuse.

There is already a bewildering amount of advice out there for expectant mothers – they have enough to deal with without worrying about how much alcohol they can ‘safely’ consume.

Research suggests that drinking alcohol to excess during pregnancy can lead to a number of complications such as Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) – a range of conditions in children caused by excessive exposure to alcohol in the womb.

There’s also an increased risk of miscarriage or low birth weight – all of which adds to the need for clearer information to help expectant mothers make their own decision about whether to drink or not.

But the government and public bodies have a duty to keep it clear and simple – if you want to avoid risking the health of your child, don’t drink when pregnant.’

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