New study backs up alcohol avoidance advice during pregnancy, says Swanswell

15 November 2012

A study that suggests drinking even one or two glasses of wine a week during pregnancy can impact a child’s intelligence reinforces Swanswell’s advice to avoid alcohol completely if expecting.

The national charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding to news today that researchers from Oxford and Bristol Universities found ‘moderate’ alcohol intake of one to six units a week during pregnancy affected a child’s IQ (reports BBC News).

The study, published in PLOS One journal, looked at the IQ scores of 4,000 children, while recording how much alcohol their mothers had. However, the effect was only seen in those drinking less than six units a week and not among those who abstained from alcohol.

Previous advice around whether it’s safe to drink low to moderate levels of alcohol during pregnancy has been confusing with some experts saying it is, while others – including Swanswell – believe it isn’t.     

Chris Robinson, Swanswell’s Director of Services, said: ‘There is so much muddled thinking out there about whether or not it is safe to drink alcohol if you’re pregnant, adding to the huge amount of bewildering health advice that new mums have to deal with.

Today’s news adds weight to the argument that it’s better to avoid it all together if expecting because the evidence around the safety of drinking low to moderate levels is inconsistent.

So the government and public health bodies have a duty to keep advice clear and simple while warning of the potential risks.

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is one of the disorders that could affect a child who’s mother was drinking alcohol during pregnancy. FASD is the most common preventable cause of learning disability or difficulty in the UK (Carpenter, B., 2011).

FASD is a range of conditions – including birth defects and disorders associated with brain development – caused by exposure to alcohol in the womb. Research suggests it affects around one per cent of births in Europe and sufferers display a range of symptoms.

So the safest way to minimise the risk of harm is to simply avoid alcohol during pregnancy.’

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