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There’s another story out today about drinking while pregnant, and how it can increase the risk of miscarriage.  Read it here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-26239576

It’s an interesting one this, because it opens up the question of whether it’s safe to drink in pregnancy, even a small amount.  You may not be surprised to learn that government guidelines are far from helpful:  NICE (the body which considers all the evidence and produces government health guidelines) advises alcohol should be avoided in the first three months of pregnancy because of increased risk of miscarriage. However, in the same guidance advice is given that if women choose to drink alcohol during pregnancy then they should drink no more than 1 – 2 units once or twice a week. Contradictory?  What the guidelines seem to say is don’t drink, but if you do, drink a little.  In the USA they are much more clear, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has also considered all the evidence, and state “no amount of alcohol is safe for pregnant women to drink”.

The problem with alcohol is that the molecule can and does cross over from the mother into the foetus, and can interfere with developmental processes in the foetus.  Also the liver of the foetus is not sufficiently developed to metabolise the alcohol it receives from the mother through the placenta. There are a range of problems found in children whose mothers drank during pregnancy, most of them “neurodevelopmental”, ie to do with the developing brain, and these problems range from mild to severe.  Although not all children whose mothers drank will have these, by any stretch of the imagination, some will, and it’s hard to say why some children are affected and others aren’t, which is why in my opinion the advice really does have to be don’t drink at all during pregnancy.

Easy to say, less easy to do….. and if your pregnancy wasn’t planned, how were you supposed to know to stop drinking?  As with all things to do with women and alcohol, it’s complicated.

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