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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 October 2007, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
Mothers-to-be 'can drink alcohol'
Alcohol can damage the foetus
Pregnant women can safely drink a small glass of wine a day, official advice is set to say.

After the first three months of pregnancy, women can consume up to 1.5 units per day says draft guidance.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence advice comes a few months after government advised pregnant women to remain teetotal.

The draft advice is based on a review of all the evidence available on the risks of drinking alcohol in pregnancy.

No alcohol means no risk
Andrew Shennan, professor of obstetrics for baby charity Tommy's

While heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy is known to be damaging to the unborn child, the effects of more moderate intake are less clear.

The government has said women who do choose to drink during pregnancy should have no more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week.

A spokeswoman from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said: "The experts have concluded that there is no consistent evidence of adverse effects from low-to-moderate alcohol during pregnancy (less than one drink or 1.5 units per day) but the evidence is probably not strong enough to rule out any risk.

"The recommendations are subject to consultation and final guidance is due to be published in March 2008."


Andrew Shennan, professor of obstetrics for baby charity Tommy's, said: "There has been continued confusion over the levels of alcohol that are considered safe or unsafe for women to consume during pregnancy.

"Whilst there is current evidence to support the recommendations from NICE, suggesting that consuming small amounts of alcohol may not put the foetus at risk, the big problem is that there is often much misunderstanding amongst pregnant women as to exactly what a small amount of alcohol is considered to be, and that is something that certainly can put the foetus at risk, as even a couple of glasses of wine have been linked to causing harm to the baby.

"There is also well documented research which proves a link between continued alcohol consumption throughout pregnancy and a condition called Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, which affects thousands of children each year and is the leading cause of learning difficulties.

"To avoid any confusion, the current message from the government provides a simple guideline for women to follow insofar as no alcohol means no risk."

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says abstinence from alcohol is the safest option, but that low level consumption of alcohol (1 or 2 units once or twice a week) has not yet been found to be harmful to women or their babies.

A unit of alcohol is 10ml or 8 grams of pure alcohol. The number of units in a drink depends on what you are drinking, and how strong it is.

For instance, a half pint of 3.5% beer is one unit.


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