No amount of alcohol consumed during pregnancy is considered safe, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
They suggest that pregnant women should not drink alcohol, not a drop, as there is no safe amount that can be consumed without risks involved.
No Safe Amount of Alcohol While Pregnant
The lead author of the study, Dr Janet Williams said: “The real measure [of how safe alcohol is] is how much you are willing to compromise the potential health and well-being of this baby.”
Prenatal drinking is associated with increased risk of neurocognitive and behavioural problems, such as ADHD and impaired memory skills, as well as facial deformities. The group of symptoms are known as fetal alcohol spectrum syndrome and there is also the possibility of a child being born with withdrawal symptoms when they are no longer receiving alcohol through the umbilical cord.
John Hannigan, a professor of obstetrics and psychology at Wayne State University Michigan said: “If a patient admits to drinking a glass of wine perhaps before she knew she was pregnant, there’s no reason for panic.
“The correct and clinical recommendations are not to worry but recommendations are not to worry but stop your drinking.”
One in 10 women drink while pregnant (defined as having one drink in 30 days) and one in 33 pregnant women are reported to having been binge drinking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
UK Guidelines for Drinking While Pregnant
The UK may have some catching up to do if this recent study is considered applicable as The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) changed its guidelines earlier this year to state that women trying for a baby and those in the first 3 months of pregnancy should not drink any alcohol at all.
The RCOG had previously said a couple of glasses of wine a week were acceptable. It now says abstinence is the only way to be certain that the baby is not harmed. Philippa Marsden, of the RCOG, said: “For women planning a family, it is advisable not to drink during this time. Either partner drinking heavily can make it more difficult to conceive.”
“During early pregnancy, the safest approach is to abstain from alcohol and after the first trimester keep within the recommended amounts if you do decide to have an alcohol drink. The same applies for women who decide to breastfeed.”
She added: “If you cut down or stop drinking at any point during pregnancy, it can make a difference to your baby. However, in some instances, once the damage has been done, it cannot be reversed. If you have any questions or concerns about alcohol consumption talk to your midwife, GP or health visitor who can offer support and advice.”
The RCOG may need to extend recommended abstinence during any point of the pregnancy, or even when planning a pregnancy if at all possible with new information available from research such as that from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Another author from their report, Dr Janet F. Williams, said: “The research suggests that the smartest choice for women who are pregnant is to just abstain from alcohol completely.”
Many suggest that some alcohol consumption while the pregnancy is unknown should not be a cause for people to overreact or cause too much panic once discovered.
When the RCOG released their new guidelines, Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said: “This guidance takes a precautionary approach to women drinking alcohol in pregnancy. It may be wise to avoid alcohol when planning a baby, but the fact is many pregnancies are not planned.”
“We should reassure women that if they have had an episode of binge drinking before they found out they were pregnant, they really should not worry. It is very troubling to see women so concerned about the damage they have caused their baby they consider ending what would otherwise be a wanted pregnancy, when there’s no need for such anxiety.”
With new information being taken into consideration, the fact that the UK guidelines say that after 3 months of pregnancy consuming 1-2 units of alcohol twice per week is a ‘safe amount’ may have to be revised, in order to coincide with almost every other country that has guidelines on the issue.