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Scientists warn over drinking during pregnancy

13 July 2015 09:53

Pregnant smokers are more likely to drink, data suggests

Pregnant smokers are more likely to drink, data suggests

Pregnant women regularly drink alcohol across Ireland and the UK, according to major new research.

Cambridge University scientists warned that this practice is "socially pervasive" and "prevalent" after studying nearly 18,000 expectant women throughout four countries.

Smokers are most likely to drink during pregnancy - by 50% more than the rest of the child-carrying population.

Irish mothers-to-be are putting themselves most at risk from alcohol, compared to those from other countries covered in the study - New Zealand, Australia and the UK.

Scientists found that even regular low alcohol intakes among pregnant women represent a substantial public health worry.

Holidays and pregnancy

Just because women are carrying a little excess baggage in the shape of their unborn child does not exclude them from enjoying a much-needed holiday.

Expectant mothers can enjoy the protection of travel insurance for pregnant women, if their term has not exceeded 28 weeks.

In this case, they can be covered for childbirth and pregnancy-related medical expenses.

They are also insured should they have to cancel their trip at short notice.

If they give birth during the holiday, their policy will insure them to make the return journey home.

Key findings

Over eight out of 10 expectant Irish mothers (82%) drink alcohol, the report found.

Perhaps even more worryingly, well over four in 10 of them (45%) binge drink.

Throughout the countries studied, women's alcohol intake and binge drinking reduced significantly during their second trimester.

Non-white women, younger mothers-to-be, and well-educated or obese mums are most likely to abstain, as are women who have been mothers before.

The risks

So what dangers do unborn babies face if women consume large volumes of alcohol during pregnancy?

Their chances of developing Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, which impacts upon mental and physical development, increase.

The Cambridge researchers said that mothers-to-be who even drink lower rates of alcohol constitute a substantial public health worry.