Light drinking 'does no harm in pregnancy'

Light drinking 'does no harm in pregnancy'

The evidence proving light drinking was risky was "surprisingly limited", they concluded.

Australian experts are warning against drinking any alcohol during pregnancy, despite a United Kingdom study concluding there's not enough evidence to suggest an occasional beverage is harmful to the baby.

"As the evidence is uncertain, the lowest risk approach is to avoid alcohol during pregnancy".

While it does not say light drinking is safe, the research does highlight the weak evidence on which government advice is based, they said.

Bristol University researchers found "surprisingly limited" evidence that drinking up to four units a week - equivalent to two glasses of wine - leads to birth defects, developmental delay or behavioural problems.

The researchers said: "Despite the distinction between light drinking and abstinence being the point of most tension and confusion for health professionals and pregnant women, our extensive review shows that this specific question is not being researched thoroughly enough, if at all".

"We were surprised that this very important topic was not researched as widely as expected", study co-author Loubaba Mamluk of the University of Bristol's School of Social and Community Medicine told AFP.

Up until a year ago, women were told they could drink up to one or two units, once or twice a week.

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Carmel Lloyd, head of education at the Royal College of Midwives, said: "We support the view of the research authors and our advice also remains that if you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant then it is better to remove any doubt about the impact of alcohol and not drink it". Out of thousands of studies, only 24 met the researchers' criteria for review.

"Women who have had a drink while pregnant should be reassured that they are unlikely to have caused their baby considerable harm, but if anxious, they should discuss this with their GP or midwife".

The study systematically reviewed all the data from a wide range of high quality observational studies on the impact of light drinking - around 32g of alcohol, which works out at three standard drinks in Irish units.

Women are officially advised to avoid all alcohol while pregnant - but that recommendation is based less on hard scientific data and more on the principle of "better to be safe than sorry". "It is most likely low on the basis of the information we now have, but you can't be promised that and you don't know that".

"Why not give the child the chance not to have this potential limitation or health risk in their life?"

Many pregnant women wonder if one glass is safe.

On the other hand, for the mom-to-be who might have had a cocktail or two before she knew she was pregnant, as long as she was not binge drinking, there is little evidence to suggest that she should be overcome with worry, according to the paper.

The HSE said: "When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her unborn baby".

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