Light drinking 'does no harm in pregnancy'

Light drinking in pregnancy 'unlikely' to harm babies, but experts caution lack of evidence

Light drinking 'does no harm in pregnancy'

Before now, it was believed that it is safe for women to consume little quantities of alcohol without causing the baby any harm.

"When a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy, the alcohol in her blood quickly passes through the placenta and the umbilical cord to the baby", Jarris explained.

Overall, the researchers backed this view, saying the lack of evidence of harm was not the same as proof that it is fine to drink.

The evidence that light or occasional drinking in pregnancy was harmful was "surprisingly limited" but scientists advised expectant moms are advised to avoid alcohol "just in case".

Professor Elliot says there is a paucity of evidence of harm in offspring exposed to low levels of alcohol, but just because we can't see damage doesn't mean there is no damage.

The review, published in the journal BMJ Open, included experts from the University of Bristol and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust.

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They examined the studies, which involved drinking up to four units (32 grams in the United States) of alcohol per week, compared to not drinking at all.

One unit is equivalent to half a pint of beer, lager or cider at 3.5 per cent strength, a single measure of spirits or half a standard (175ml) glass of wine at 11.5 per cent strength.

But they found "insufficient evidence" to suggest a link between light drinking and other health outcomes such as miscarriage, still birth, long term developmental delays, behavioural and cognitive deficits.

There was also some evidence of a heightened risk of premature birth, but this was less clear. "The distinction between light drinking and abstinence is indeed the point of most tension and confusion for health professionals and pregnant women".

For most of the consequences the researchers analyzed, there were only a few observational studies that compared light to non-alcohol consumption.

However new guidelines from the UK Chief Medical Officer recommended women should not drink any alcohol at all while trying to conceive or while pregnant, on the grounds that it is "better to be safe than sorry".

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However, a new study suggests that a slight change in attitude towards pregnant women who enjoy the odd glass of wine might be in order.

The study noted in comparison, light to moderate smoking of less than 20 cigarettes per day was associated with a 22 percent increased risk.

The analysis indicated that alcohol consumption up to four units per week during pregnancy, on an average, was related to 8% higher risk of undersized babies, compared with consuming no alcohol at all. "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".

One expert, Dr Ellie Lee said: "Official advice about drinking in pregnancy has gone down an overtly precautionary route". The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that there is "no safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy". In spite of this, recommendations have changed.

According to a report appeared in the Guardian, drinking in pregnancy is a fraught issue and causes much anxiety.

Here's everything we know about the guidelines on drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

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