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Women may understate alcohol pregnancy risk

Monday April 11th, 2011

Health services need to do more to identify women who are drinking heavily in the early stages of pregnancy, researchers have warned.

A major study in Ireland has failed to settle the issue of whether pregnant woman can be allowed small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy.

The researchers concluded that some women may lie about how much they have been drinking.

The research links heavy drinking by pregnancy women to premature birth and low birth weight.

But a single case of foetal alcohol syndrome involving a woman who claimed to drink lightly highlighted the risks of heavy drinkers failing to admit it.

Some 60,000 women were involved in the research reported today in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.

Just 20 per cent of the women were non-drinkers and 71 per cent claimed to be taking the occasional drink during pregnancy.

In Britain official guidance was relaxed two years ago, allowing women to take one or two drinks a week during pregnancy. But other countries continue to advise against it.

Researcher Professor Deirdre Murphy, of Trinity College, Dublin, said: "This study emphasises the need for improved detection of alcohol misuse in pregnancy and for early intervention in order to minimise the risks to the developing foetus.

"We would recommend that further research is required before even low amounts of alcohol can be considered safe."

Prevalence, predictors and perinatal outcomes of peri-conceptional alcohol exposure - retrospective cohort study in an urban obstetric population in Ireland. Aoife Mullally, Brian J Cleary, Joe Barry, Tom P Fahey and Deirdre J Murphy. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth (in press)

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | Drug and Alcohol Abuse | Europe | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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