Washington D.C, Oct 7 (ANI): The controversial topic of alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been the subject of countless research and heated debates, but experts are suggesting women should steer clear of booze completely during the whole of gestation.
Alcohol is not essential to the health or well being of a pregnant woman and is known to be harmful to her baby, argue researchers Mary Mather and Kate Wiles. They say the only ethical advice that can be given is complete abstinence from alcohol in pregnancy.
Infants can suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, mental retardation, development and behavioural abnormalities, and low birth weight. But how and when fetal damage occurs is unknown and will vary according to each individual pregnancy, they explain.
Pregnant women must know there is no evidence of a threshold level of alcohol consumption in pregnancy below which there can be certainty that exposure is safe, they argue, adding that current guidance flies in the face of evidence and international consensus and that these present a contradictory, confusing barrage of mixed messages.
The Department of Health, NICE and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) make inconsistent suggestions on the number of alcohol units that are safe for pregnant women.
Furthermore, few pregnant women or healthcare professionals understand what a unit of alcohol means and “choose to drink” is open to misinterpretation. Many pregnant women drink alcohol during pregnancy and put their babies at risk, they say.
Meanwhile, many countries including Canada, Denmark, Norway, Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands and Scotland advise against alcohol consumption completely.
Guidelines need to be clear, consistent and acknowledge that no evidence shows that alcohol consumption below a certain level is safe, they argue. “Until this is provided, pregnant women in England and Wales will remain unable to make an informed choice about their use of alcohol in pregnancy.”
The study appears in The BMJ. (ANI)