People who drink 'even small' amounts of alcohol warned after study

A warning has been issued over even small amount of alcohol which, while pregnant, can cause birth abnormalities. New research has shown that no amount of drinking during pregnancy is safe, because even low to moderate alcohol use can cause babies to be smaller and premature.

The research, published in the Alcohol Clinical and Experimental Research journal, studied 281 pregnant women and their children, and featured those who drank moderately or occasionally, or around the time they conceived or before realising they were expecting.

Professor Ludmila Bakhireva said: "We know quite a bit from these earlier studies of heavy alcohol use about the effect on prenatal outcomes, especially preterm delivery and growth restriction, as well as neurodevelopmental outcomes, but we specifically focused on more moderate alcohol exposure because it's much more prevalent."

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On the NHS website, it warns: "It's recommended that if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant you should not drink alcohol. This will keep any risk to your baby to a minimum. Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby, with the more you drink, the greater the risk."

She added: "Almost everybody drinks before they know they are pregnant, and risky drinking before pregnancy is predictive of drinking later on. That's a unique aspect of the study. We carefully looked at the patterns of drinking around conception and early pregnancy."

Professor Bakhireva concluded: "I think this study, as well as prior preclinical studies, show that even moderate alcohol use might have negative effects." She went on: "The degree of negative effects might vary, and it is important to address alcohol use without the stigma often associated with it, but overall, if we try to encourage abstinence from alcohol during pregnancy, we will maximise positive health and developmental outcomes for the children."

The NHS adds: "Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and your baby having a low birthweight. It can also affect your baby after they're born."