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 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 10:43 GMT
Pregnant women 'ignore drink advice'
Women should consume no more than one drink a day
One in seven American women drinks alcohol while pregnant, a survey suggests.

Some of those questioned even admitted to binge drinking.

This is despite the fact that drinking during pregnancy has been linked to physical and mental problems in children.

Doctors said the findings highlighted the need for women to be given better health information.

The good news is most women aren't drinking

Dr Heather Flynn

The findings are based on an anonymous survey of more than 1,000 women between the ages of 18 and 46 by researchers at the University of Michigan.

'Most don't drink'

They found that women were most likely to drink in the earlier stages of pregnancy.

Women who smoked were also most likely to drink while pregnant.

Overall, 15% said they drank while they were expecting. Some said they had consumed five or more drinks at one time.

However, most said they had fewer than one drink a week.

Only half of those questioned said they had been asked about their drinking habits by hospital doctors.

Even moderate amounts of alcohol - one or two drinks a day - may be enough to cause behavioural and learning problems in children later in life.

Excessive drinking has also been linked to a pattern of physical defects called Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).

But a study published last year suggested even light drinking can cause subtle signs of brain damage.

Chief researcher Dr Heather Flynn said some of the findings were positive.

"The good news is most women aren't drinking, and those who do drink aren't drinking much."

But she added: "There's a subgroup that's at high risk, and we need to do more to understand and reach them."

The research team are now planning to examine the psychological and psychosocial factors that influence a women's tendency to drink while pregnant.

The Royal College of Obstetricians in London recommends that pregnant women should consume no more than one alcoholic drink each day.

Barbara Kott an ante-natal teacher in London said she advised women to drink moderately. "I don't come across women who drink while pregnant that often. I think it is probably easier if women don't drink at all when they are pregnant but if they do they should keep it to one glass of wine with their dinner. It is probably a good idea to avoid spirits.

"Research shows that alcohol like any drug can affect the developing baby and alcohol is quite a powerful drug."

This latest research is published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

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18 Sep 02 | Health
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