No matter how much flak I took I’ve never relaxed my advice on giving up alcohol in pregnancy. At one time I even opposed NICE guidelines that drinking in moderation was OK. I steadfastly stuck to the line, don’t touch a drop. The ex-chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies and I are at one on that.
My logic is this. No one knows how sensitive any unborn baby is to alcohol which freely passes across the placenta and no one can measure the damage that’s inflicted. So why risk it?
All I know is that a study showed a single vodka and orange can stop an unborn baby’s chest movements after only 27 minutes, so this convinced me alcohol is bad for babies. And now a new study has revealed drinking in pregnancy can result in low birth weight and poor cognitive function.
The Bristol University team looked at 23 published studies on drinking during pregnancy.
This is the first time, say the scientists, that results from a range of powerful studies have been compared to examine the effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
And the news is women should abstain from alcohol during all three trimesters. Dr Luisa Zuccolo, senior lecturer in epidemiology from the University of Bristol, said: “The body of evidence for the harm that alcohol can do to children before they are born is growing, and our review is the first to look at the full range of studies on the issue.
“Our work confirms the current scientific consensus: that consuming alcohol during pregnancy can affect a child’s cognitive abilities later in life, including their education. It might also lead to lower birth weight.”
The alcohol industry doesn’t necessarily agree, so Zuccolo’s findings are “more important than ever”.
A 2019 study from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Imperial College London revealed the way alcohol-funded groups slant information about drinking alcohol
The websites of 23 alcohol industry-funded firms and 19 public health organisations were assessed.
Shockingly, industry-funded firms were less likely to advise pregnant women not to drink any alcohol and were more likely to “emphasise uncertainties” about drinking.
I agree with baby charity Tommy’s, which says “there is no known safe level for drinking during pregnancy”.
The charity also states that the “safest approach is not to drink at all”.
“It is particularly advised not to drink alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy as this is a time of huge growth and development,” it said.