The Evidence Against Light Drinking During Pregnancy Is Not Solid Enough

Sep 13, 2017, 00:30
The Evidence Against Light Drinking During Pregnancy Is Not Solid Enough

David Spiegelhalter, professor for the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge, said the new review showed that "warnings about the dangers of drinking any alcohol at all during pregnancy are not justified by evidence".

The researchers found very little evidence that small amount of drinking alcohol during pregnancy caused harm to babies, including birth defects, developmental delay, behavioral problems and impaired intelligence.

This concern remains of enormous public health importance, say the researchers, as up to 80% of mums-to-be in Australia, New Zealand, UK, and Ireland consume alcohol while they are pregnant.

They examined the studies, which involved drinking up to four units (32 grams in the United States) of alcohol per week, compared to not drinking at all.

Plus, many women may drink alcohol before they find out they're pregnant.

Number of women drinking alcohol is extreme than expected.

Dr. Paul Jarris, chief medical officer of the March of Dimes, acknowledged that research hasn't been conclusive about low use of alcohol in pregnant women.

Dr Christoph Lees, clinical reader in obstetrics at Imperial College London, said: "Whilst it is possible that light drinking is associated with a slightly higher risk of having a small baby, there are other possible explanations".

Also, researchers stated that the lack of eminent data shows the complications of designing research that can truly estimate the causal effect of light alcohol consumption while minimizing the risks of bias and confounding.

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The study noted in comparison, light to moderate smoking of less than 20 cigarettes per day was associated with a 22 percent increased risk.

"Regularly drinking even small amounts could be harmful and should be avoided, in line with the precautionary approach".

As for other research that suggests low amounts of alcohol have zero effect on pregnancy, Grunebaum says these assertions may be an attempt to make drinking certain amounts socially acceptable in some countries. "The distinction between light drinking and abstinence is indeed the point of most tension and confusion for health professionals and pregnant women".

Many pregnant women wonder if one glass is safe. "It is most likely low on the basis of the information we now have, but you can't be promised that and you don't know that".

The evidence on how much, if any, is safe to drink, or at what stages of pregnancy, is notable by its absence, they add.

Despite research, experts are still unsure how much alcohol - if any - is safe to drink while pregnant.

Andrew Shennan, professor of obstetrics at King's College London, said: "It has been hard to associate low levels of alcohol intake in pregnancy and harm, and this work confirms this".

The British team looked at 26 studies of women who had low to moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy and compared them to women who had no alcohol while pregnant.

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