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Page last updated at 12:12 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009
Booze warning for pregnant women

By Adrian Pearce
Newsbeat reporter

Heavy drinking in the first three months is a risk say researchers

Women who drink heavily in the first three months of pregnancy are more likely to have a premature baby.

That's according to research by scientists in Britain and Australia.

They found that women who were binge drinkers could also put their babies at risk even if they stopped after the first three months.

The results raise fears about women who drink heavily in the first trimester when they may not even know they are pregnant.

But controversially the experts found no evidence that drinking in small quantities harmed the baby.

That contradicts official government health advice that says women trying to conceive and those who are pregnant should avoid drinking altogether.

Official limits

If they must drink, they should consume low levels - no more than one or two units of alcohol, once or twice a week.

That's effectively no more than a small (125ml) glass of wine.

The researchers examined data for almost 5,000 women. They checked how often they drank, how much, and what they were drinking.

Colleen O'Leary, who led the study, said: "Drinking alcohol above low levels increases the risk to the baby... the safest choice is not to drink alcohol during pregnancy."

Professor Andrew Shennan, from children's medical charity Tommy's, said the information on drinking when you're expecting can be confusing: "More research needs to be done to ascertain the true extent of the risk posed by drinking alcohol during pregnancy."

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