What Do The Latest Official Uk Guidelines Say Exactly
The UK Chief Medical Officers advice, published on the NHS website1 , says:
Women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should avoid alcohol altogether. UK Chief Medical Officers
This advice is precautionary. Its known that alcohol can pass from your bloodstream across your placenta to your unborn baby and, because a baby in the womb is not yet able to process alcohol effectively,1 this can cause long-term harm. Studies1, 2, 3, 4, 5 have shown that potential harm is greater the more you drink and includes an increased risk of:
- your baby having a low birthweight
- your baby having behavioural and learning difficulties
- your baby having a range of physical and mental disabilities known as fetal alcohol syndrome
But what if youve already drunk alcohol because you hadnt realised you were pregnant? The guidelines go on to say that:
If you find out you’re pregnant after already having drunk in early pregnancy, you should avoid further drinking. However, you should not worry unnecessarily, as the risks of your baby being affected are likely to be low UK Chief Medical Officers
Both the UKs Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists6 and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaeclogists7 echo this reassurance that its unlikely that your baby has been harmed. The experts at RCOG recommend talking to your midwife or GP, if youre worried, and the experts at ACOG advise you not to drink any alcohol for the rest of your pregnancy.
What If I Drank Before I Realized I Was Pregnant
Women frequently come to us worried because they had a few drinks before they noticed a missed period. I assure them there is little evidence to suggest that they harmed their pregnancy.
I also use this opportunity to discuss how much they normally drink and to educate them about the risks of drinking during pregnancy. If they dont want to stop drinking entirely, we discuss what might be a reasonable limit. I tell patients I think one to two drinks a week is unlikely to be harmful but that I cant guarantee that there are no possible risks. Most of the time, they just want to know its OK to have a glass of wine to celebrate a special occasion.
If you have a problem with alcohol, dont be ashamed to ask for help. Addiction is a disease, and most people cant manage it on their own. Your physician can refer you to a therapist or program that may be able to help. The sooner you get your drinking under control, the better it will be for you and your baby.
If you are concerned about the amount of alcohol you drank before you knew you were pregnant, want to know more about the effects of alcohol during pregnancy, or need help managing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, talk with your physician. You can schedule an appointment online or call .
Tips On Avoiding Alcohol When Youre Pregnant
If you normally enjoy a drink, it can be tempting to want one when other people are drinking around you.
It may help to ask your partner, friends and family to support you by not offering to buy, pour, or prepare you drinks. It can help if your partner stops drinking too, or at least cuts down themselves when youre pregnant.
You may also want to avoid bars and clubs and other places associated with drinking alcohol. . If you are socialising, most people should understand that youre pregnant and avoiding alcohol. There are plenty of delicious non-alcoholic drinks out there gone are the days when youd have to sip orange juice all evening.
If you drink a lot and are worried about alcoholism and how to cut down, talk to your midwife or family doctor. Alternatively, you might prefer to call one of the helplines listed below.
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Alcohol Use In Pregnancy
There is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant. There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink. All types of alcohol are equally harmful, including all wines and beer.
FASDs are preventable if a woman does not drink alcohol during pregnancy.
First Time Different Study Designs Were Compared
Researchers say this is the first time results from a number of different study designs were compared relating to the effect of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
The trickiest thing in this field is to be able to have comparable groups of pregnant women, and children, who only differ by alcohol consumed during pregnancy this is how we can tell if alcohol causes the outcomes, rather than just being correlated with them, said Zuccolo.
The analysis looked at both traditional studies like randomized controlled trials and alternative strategies that involved comparing children in the same family whose mothers reduced or increased alcohol consumption between pregnancies.
Zuccolo explained that they used study designs with different methods and assumptions to make these groups comparable, as would be done in an experiment, so we can be more confident in our conclusions, provided the results point in the same direction.
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How Much Alcohol During Pregnancy Is Safe
South Africa has one of the highest rates of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome in the world with a prevalence as high as 12.2% in some areas.
Yet women often ask the question, Is the occasional drink during pregnancy okay?
A pregnant scientist, Yella Hewings-Martin, investigated.
She came across a study led by Loubaba Mamluk, a senior research associate in epidemiology at the University Hospital Bristol in the UK, that looked into whether its safe for a pregnant woman to drink one glass of alcohol per day.
“The distinction between light drinking and abstinence is indeed the point of most tension and confusion for health professionals and pregnant women, and public health guidance varies worldwide,” Mamluk told Hewings-Martin.
The team discovered there was an 8% increase in the risk of having a small baby and a 10% increase in the risk of preterm delivery in women who had about two alcoholic drinks per week.
Is it safe to consume alcohol while pregnant?
Unfortunately it is unlikely that researchers will be able to ascertain conclusively whether it is safe for pregnant women to drink alcohol in moderation or not.
“This type of research is extremely difficult to perform. It is unethical to attempt to have a group of women intentionally drink, so researchers have limited approaches to study alcohol effects,” Professor David Garry, director of maternal foetal medicine at Stony Brook Medicine in New York, told Hewings-Martin.
Alcohol causes damage to cells
FAS is preventable
How Much Is Too Much
The problem with drinking alcohol during your pregnancy is that there is no amount that has been proven to be safe, says Jacques Moritz, MD, director of gynecology at St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital in New York.
David Garry, DO, associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and chair of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Task Force for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists District II/NY, agrees. He says that researchers dont know enough about the potential effects of drinking alcohol at particular times during the pregnancy to be able to say that any time is really safe.
Its also difficult to predict the impact of drinking on any given pregnancy because some women have higher levels of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol.
If a pregnant woman with low levels of this enzyme drinks, her baby may be more susceptible to harm because the alcohol may circulate in her body for a longer period of time, Garry tells WebMD.
Because there are so many unknowns, the CDC, the U.S. Surgeon General, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics advise pregnant women not to drink alcohol at all.
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Is Wine During Pregnancy Safe
Generally, it is known that excessive drinking is the cause of many of the complications which can occur during pregnancy, as a result of alcohol. These risks may not be associated as strongly with occasional drinking.
However, despite the varying information out there, the safest and most universal answer to this question is that no amount of alcohol has been deemed safe during pregnancy, and if at all possible, even casual drinking should be avoided.The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Pregnancy Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics all note that no amount of wine during pregnancy is deemed safe and that consuming wine while pregnant should be avoided.
Is It Safe To Drink A Little During Pregnancy
The advice is no, not really. Research has shown that even drinking small amounts of alcohol could potentially be harmful for your baby . The UK Chief Medical Officer has therefore recommended that, as a precaution, you shouldnt drink alcohol at all during your pregnancy. This is also the case if youre trying to get pregnant .
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists also back this up. They advise against drinking if you think you could become pregnant, or if youre breastfeeding .
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How Does Alcohol Affect The Male Sperm During Pregnancy
A: How alcohol affects the male sperm is currently being studied. Whatever the effects are found to be, they are not fetal alcohol spectrum disorders . FASDs are caused specifically by the mothers alcohol use during pregnancy. However, the fathers role is important. He can help the woman avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
How Many Women Drink Alcohol During Pregnancy
If MadeForMums users are anything to go by, definitely fewer women are drinking alcohol in pregnancy since the official guidelines changed in 2016.
Back in 2014, we ran a MadeForMums survey, asking more than 1100 women whether they drank during pregnancy. And, according to those results, about a quarter of pregnant women said they stopped drinking alcohol altogether and just under half said they still drank while pregnant:
- 45% said they had drunk alcohol while pregnant
- 24% said they stopped drinking alcohol when they discovered they were pregnant
But, looking at posts on our MadeForMums Chat forum since 2016 and talking to the pregnancy women who took part in our Bump Project pregnancy research study in 2018, things have changed a lot with the vast majority of pregnant women saying they avoid drinking in alcohol altogether.
I personally believe pregnancy should be a no alcohol time, says Lilian2410 on our Chat forum, for example. And Gemma, who took part in our Bump Project, says, Before, I loved a glass of red wine but, since becoming pregnant I have not had anything alcoholic. The risks are unknown and I dont want to take any chances.
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How Much Alcohol Is Safe To Drink When Pregnant
How much you drink matters. The more you drink, the more likely it is that the baby will suffer some harm. The more alcohol and the more frequently alcohol is consumed during pregnancy, the higher the risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder . This is a range of physical, cognitive, developmental and emotional problems caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
There is no research that supports even having an occasional drink will do little harm. Experts say that there is no safe level of drinking during pregnancy.
So not drinking at all while youre pregnant is the safest option.
What Is The Maximum Number Of Units Of Alcohol It Is Safe For A Pregnant Woman To Drink In A Week
A decade ago, it was thought that up to 10 units a week was safe, says Dr Jaya Parikh, of the Lister Fertility Clinic. Now we are much more conservative, advising that the maximum pregnant women should be drinking is one or two units once or twice a week, and none at all in the first trimester.
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The Potential Hazard Of Alcohol During Pregnancy
For the past few decades, women have been urged to avoid alcohol during pregnancy. Respected medical societies like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the United Kingdom’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Women both say women shouldn’t drink any alcohol during pregnancy. The main reason for this is that heavy use of alcohol during pregnancy has been linked to a long-term and irreversible condition known as fetal alcohol syndrome .
Babies with FAS may be born early. They are often underweight and don’t grow well. Some have characteristic facial features like a thin upper lip and small eye openings, or the small vertical groove between the upper lip and the nose may be flattened. Other physical signs that go along with fetal alcohol syndrome include a small head, short nose, and problems with the way the heart or the joints are formed.
Children with FAS are slower to learn language skills than other kids. When they reach school age they often have learning disabilities and difficulty with attention, memory and hyperactivity. They are more likely to have poor coordination and a hard time with problem-solving. And some have trouble making friends and relating to other kids. All of which can make school a really difficult time.
Despite this clear advice, up to half of women drink some alcohol during pregnancy.
What Else Can I Do To Make Sure I Have A Healthy Pregnancy
As well as not drinking alcohol, there are other steps you can take to be healthy and to protect your developing baby during pregnancy:
- Regularly see your doctor, nurse, or midwife
- Eat healthy food
- Reduce or stop your use of cigarettes and other drugs
- Balance rest and activity
- Reduce your stress. Find healthy ways to relax and deal with stress. For example, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, going for walks or taking part in other physical activities, having a warm bath, or talking with a supportive friend or family member
For more information on having a healthy pregnancy, see www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/pregnancy/guide-healthy-pregnancy.html.
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Study Compares Alcohol Consumption During Pregnancy Across European Countries
A study among over 7000 women in 11 European countries shows the proportion of women in Europe who drink alcohol when they know they are pregnant is lowest in Norway and highest in the UK. The countries with the highest proportion of women who reported alcohol consumption during pregnancy were the UK , Russia and Switzerland .
This is the first study that compares alcohol consumption during pregnancy across 11 European countries. The study uses the same method for collecting data, thereby making the results comparable between the countries.
ResultsOn average, 16% of women in the 11 European countries reported that they drank alcohol after they knew that they were pregnant.
- The countries with the highest proportion of women who reported alcohol consumption during pregnancy were the UK , Russia and Switzerland .
- The countries with the lowest proportion of women who reported alcohol consumption were Norway , Sweden and Poland .
- Women who reported alcohol consumption during pregnancy were more likely to be older, more highly educated, in employment, and had smoked before pregnancy than women who did not report this consumption.
Why do so few women in Norway drink during pregnancy compared to the UK?
Who drinks most?
Of those women who said they drank alcohol during pregnancy, 39 % consumed at least one unit of alcohol per month. Those who drank most frequently were in Italy and the UK .
Drinking Alcohol Before You Knew You Were Pregnant
The risk to your unborn baby from low-level drinking before you know youre pregnant is not fully understood but may affect the developing baby.
It is recommended that you stop drinking as soon as you know you are pregnant to help prevent any potential harm. You may want to talk to your healthcare professional for support to stop drinking, as this can be hard to do for some people. See Alcohol and pregnancy on The Royal Women’s Hospital website.
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Alcohol During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding
To prevent harm from alcohol to their unborn child, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol. For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for their baby. Even a small amount of alcohol can harm a baby’s development and may have lifelong effects.
Reaching Out To The Mothers Who Need It
Perhaps this is what more of the focus should be on. Instead of scaring women out of having an occasional drink during pregnancy, its those women who are unknowingly hurting their babies because of lack of prenatal care and education. FAS only occurs among alcoholic mothers, those who drink regularly and have frequent binge sessions. Interestingly, these mothers also tend to have more pregnancies, fewer prenatal visits, more mental health problems and accidents that are related to alcohol or other factors.
Only the family can make the decision as to what is right for a teenage mother, but we at The River Source want our families to be educated on the information surrounding drug and alcohol abuse, even when it comes to sensitive, controversial topics such as drinking during pregnancy. There is no reason to believe that light to moderate drinking will cause FAS. If your teen is struggling with addiction while pregnant, dont think that youve hit a dead end. The team at The River Source can create a safe program that will foster success in every way possible.
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