Pregnant Women Told 'Avoid Alcohol'

Women are being advised to avoid alcohol altogether during pregnancy, following a revision in guidelines provided by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The new guidelines advise pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant to avoid drinking alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy, because there may be an increased risk of miscarriage.

Women who choose to drink alcohol while pregnant are now being advised to drink no more than one - two UK units once or twice a week and not to get drunk or binge-drink (drinking more than 7.5 UK units of alcohol or a single occasion), because this can harm the unborn baby.

The revised guidance is consistent with that issued by the UK Chief Medical Officers last year. However, NICE admitted that there was no new evidence to support the change.

Drinking heavily during pregnancy can cause foetal alcohol syndrome, which can lead to children developing behaviourial or learning difficulties.

Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer, welcomed the updated guidance. He said: "It further strengthens the advice from the UK CMO's that pregnant women or women trying to conceive should avoid drinking alcohol.

"NICE's guidance highlights this is most important at the beginning of pregnancy, when there may be an increased risk of miscarriage, and again reinforces that if they do choose to drink, to protect the baby, they should not drink more than 1 to 2 units of alcohol once or twice a week and should not get drunk. Pregnant women or women trying to conceive should seek further advice from their midwives or GP."

NICE's new guidance also included a number of recommendations for pregnant women. These included stressing the importance of taking Vitamin D during pregnancy and breast-feeding to women at their booking appointment. Vitamin D can help to prevent the development of conditions such as rickets and spina bifida.

The guidance also said that screening for sickle cell diseases and thalassaemias should be offered to all women ideally by 10 weeks, while the combined test for Down's Syndrome should be offered between 11 and 13 weeks. It also recommended screening for gestational diabetes in all women.


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