Some believe that one or two drinks while you are pregnant is okay. Some doctors even tell their pregnant patients that they may have an alcoholic beverage if consumed responsibly.
In Britain, women are to be told not to drink alcohol at all during pregnancy in a major shift in Government policy.
Until now, official advice has been that it is safe for expectant mothers to drink up to four units – around two glasses of wine – per week.
But guidance to be issued in the next few weeks will warn that women should not drink at all while pregnant – or even if they are trying for a baby.
The change of heart has been prompted by growing evidence of the harm alcohol does to unborn children, and increasing binge-drinking among young women.
Experts say around one in 100 babies born in the UK are affected by their mother’s drinking – suffering from hyperactivity and learning disabilities at one end of the spectrum and brain damage and deafness in the worst cases.
In another landmark move, ministers are to tell manufacturers of alcoholic drinks to put cigarette-style warnings on bottles to warn of the dangers of drinking while pregnant.
There was concern yesterday that the new advice would cause confusion among pregnant women, and that many mothers would be consumed by guilt – even though they had faithfully followed NHS advice.
The effects of alcohol on children can not become apparent for several years. A spokeswoman for the National Childbirth Trust said: “In the end it is up to mothers to decide how much they drink. It can be a very difficult for mothers, especially if they did not know they were pregnant and had been drinking.
“Nevertheless, there is growing evidence that even low levels of alcohol can have an effect.”
Two-thirds of expectant mothers admit to drinking during pregnancy, and one in 20 says they regularly-exceed the Government’s present limit.
But there is a growing body of evidence that even very small amounts of alcohol could result in fetal alcohol syndrome, which causes problems including low birth weight, short stature, flattened features, heart and kidney abnormalities, deafness and brain damage leading to poor hand-to-eye co-ordination and behavioural difficulties.
It affects one in 1,000 babies and is the leading cause of mental retardation in the Western world.
Complete abstinence is already advised for expectant mothers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and France.
The exact wording on British drinks labels has not be finalised. They will be voluntary at first but if the drinks industry ignores them, ministers have warned they will consider legislating.
The article I wrote last year on Alcohol and Pregnancy is worth reading for more perspective on the subject. I am always shocked at the number of people who think it is okay to have just one or two drinks.
Kudos to the British Government for taking a such an aggressive stand on this issue….they are a little late with their findings, but better late than never!
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