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Drinking Alcohol In Pregnancy: What Are The Risks?

14/08/2014 16:49 | Updated 22 May 2015

Alcohol during pregnancy: What are the risks?

So you're pregnant... congratulations! That sounds like cause for a celebration if ever there was one. But of course, now you're with child, there will be no champers for you... or will just one glass be okay?

Sometimes it feels like the goalposts are constantly moving when it comes to drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

The official and current advice from the Department of Health is to abstain completely (particularly during the first three months) or, if you do drink, to consume no more than one or two units, once or twice a week.

In contrast to that, some of the most recent research, carried out in Denmark, has suggested drinking small to moderate amounts has no adverse effects on children by the age of five. Over there a standard drink has 12g of alcohol, in the UK a drink contains 7.9g – and the researchers' conclusion was that between one and eight Danish-sized drinks per week was safe.

So what's correct? Which line should you be toeing?

However many studies are published, there's only one way to be absolutely sure your unborn baby is not being adversely affected by alcohol – and that, rather obviously, is to not drink any at all.

If you do drink say, a glass of wine, or a bottle of beer, some of the alcohol is going to be passed to you baby via the placenta and, because their little body is still developing, they will not be able to process the booze as fast as your body does.

While it's really unknown what a baby experiences in the womb when you drink, much is known about the effects of heavy drinking throughout pregnancy, because that can lead to a number of problems which will be apparent when your baby arrives.

A baby exposed to high levels of alcohol might have a low birth weight, suffer heart defects, or have behavioural or learning disorders.

They might even be one of an estimated 6,000 or more babies born each year who are affected by foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). These can include facial abnormalities and damage to the brain and nervous system, leading to poor mental, emotional and physical development. FASDs can not be cured, and your child would live with those disabilities for their entire life.

However they can, of course, be prevented, so if you are worried about your alcohol consumption and you are pregnant, or you are wishing to get pregnant, it's important that you seek some professional advice and help.

Either speak to your GP or midwife, or call the National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome on 020 8458 5951. You can also download information.

If you do decide you'll have the occasional drink while you are pregnant (and many women do), just be sure you know exactly what constitutes a 'low' amount of alcohol because lots of drinks served in pubs and bars contain more booze than you might imagine.

At the risk of forcing you to endure a maths lesson each time you go out, it's worth keeping an eye on those labels if you want to stick within the recommended safe limits.

For example, one unit in the form of white wine is a 125ml glass (that's one of those little glasses not even available in some pubs, rather than the bucket-like goblets which can carry a standard 175ml serving, or even 250ml) of something with an ABV of around 9 and 13 ABV (whereas lots of draught and bottled beers are 5VIRTUAL-Gallery-159479%

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