Public Health Agency cautions against drinking in pregnancy

However the PHA advised that it was still better to avoid drinking while pregnant or trying to conceive.

Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive of the PHA, said: “It is important that this study does not confuse women about the potential impact of alcohol on the developing embryo or fetus. We still cannot say with total confidence that drinking during pregnancy is safe and will not harm your baby. Therefore, as a precautionary measure, our advice to pregnant women and women trying to conceive is to avoid alcohol.”

It is widely accepted that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can affect the baby’s:

• development in the womb;
• health at birth;
• susceptibility to illness in infancy, childhood, adolescence and adult life;
• ability to learn.

Drinking during pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome. It affects brain growth and development and is the leading known cause of birth defects, but is preventable by avoiding alcohol during pregnancy.

This University College London study reports that light drinking (defined as one or two units per week) does not raise the risk of developmental problems in a child.1

For those women who wish to have a drink this study does appear to offer some reassurance on the impact of light drinking in pregnancy. However it cannot be stressed enough that in order to minimise the risk to your baby, women are advised not to drink more than one or two units of alcohol once or twice a week. Exceeding this amount is not recommended.

Further information on alcohol is available at the PHA website
If someone is still unsure about whether they should drink or not during pregnancy or when they are trying to conceive, please discuss this with your GP.

Notes to the editor

1. Kelly YJ et al. Light drinking during pregnancy: still no increased risk for socioemotional difficulties or cognitive deficits at 5 years of age? J Epidemiol Community Health Published Online First: 5 October 2010

Further information

Contact the PHA press office on 028 9031 1611.