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13 March 2014 08:46
Researchers found that 53% of women drank more than the upper limit of two units a week during the first trimester
Women are drinking too much alcohol during the first three months of pregnancy, according to a study.
Researchers from the University of Leeds found 53% consume more than the recommended upper limit of two units a week during the first trimester, putting their babies at serious risk of birth defects.
They also discovered that those adhering to the suggested limits are more likely to have problems with their babies than those who do not drink at all.
The study examined 1,200 women in Leeds who filled out food frequency questionnaires, including information on alcohol consumption during the month before conception and the three trimesters of pregnancy.
It was noted that alcohol intake was "significantly higher" before conception and during the first three months of pregnancy than in the last two trimesters.
Women typically drank 11.2 units a week before conception and four units a week during the first three months and less than two a week during the last six months of pregnancy.
Those who drank more than two units a week were more likely to be older, educated to degree level and more likely to live in affluent areas.
In light of the findings, the researchers are calling on health officials to revise their guidance on drinking during pregnancy.
NHS guidance states women should avoid drinking alcohol if they are pregnant or trying to conceive.
If they do decide to drink they should have no more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week.
Some 13% of babies born during the study were underweight, 4.4% were classed as being of a low birth weight and 4.3% were born prematurely.
Alcohol consumption was associated with a 100g reduction in birth weight for women consuming more than two units a week during the first trimester.
Furthermore, they were twice as likely to have a baby who was born small for gestational age when compared to non-drinkers.
The study's authors claim these findings highlight the need for endorsing the "abstinence-only" message rather than weekly allowances.
Whether mums-to-be in the first trimester choose to have a drink within recommended guidelines on their holidays or completely abstain,
pregnancy travel insurance is one way for them to protect themselves and their baby while they're away.
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