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Pregnant women 'should avoid alcohol'

12 October 2015 08:09

Women have been urged to avoid alcohol when expecting a baby

Women have been urged to avoid alcohol when expecting a baby

Pregnant women should be clearly told that even a single alcoholic drink is one too many and could harm their baby, according to a pair of experts.

The pair - writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) - claim pregnant women in the UK are being confused by mixed messages about drinking alcohol while they are expecting a baby.

They say that, ethically, the only advice pregnant women should be given is to completely abstain from alcohol.

Expectant mothers should not feel restricted when it comes to holidays, however, with pregnancy travel insurance policies able to cover them while they are abroad.

Kate Wiles is a doctoral research fellow in obstetric medicine at the Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, while Mary Mather is a retired paediatrician.

They point out that while women in some countries - including the US, Canada, France, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand - are warned to avoid alcohol altogether their counterparts in Britain are given contradictory messages.

The experts point out that while some advice recommends total abstinence, it is qualified with others only recommending women avoid alcohol for the first three months of their pregnancy.

The Department of Health, for example, recommends total abstinence but says women who do choose to have a drink should have a maximum of one or two units of alcohol once or twice a week.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists urges women not to drink during the first three months and says too much alcohol can harm an unborn baby.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, meanwhile, advises abstinence during the early stages of pregnancy because of the higher risk of miscarriage.

Its leaflet says although it is best to avoid alcohol altogether, drinking up to two units once or twice a week after three months of pregnancy does not appear to do any harm.

But Wiles and Mather say women should be given clear guidelines.

They say women should be warned to remain totally dry during pregnancy and told that there is no evidence to back up the view that drinking a small glass or two of wine once or twice a week is safe.