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Drinking during pregnancy not safe, experts warn

June 24, 2012 - Washington

Experts from U.S have refuted claims that consumption of up to 8 alcoholic drinks a week or occasional binge drinking during pregnancy is generally safe for the developing baby.

A series of new studies from Denmark had suggested that consumption of up to 8 alcoholic drinks a week is relatively harmless for foetus.

Kenneth Lyons Jones, MD, professor in the UCSD Department of Pediatrics and a renowned expert in birth defects, and Christina Chambers, MPH, PhD, director of the California Teratogen Information Service (CTIS) pregnancy Health Information Line claimed that these studies are misleading to pregnant women, citing more than 30 years of research to the contrary.

"This series of studies collected data on alcohol exposure during an interview conducted sometime between 7 and 39 weeks of pregnancy. The quantity and frequency of alcohol consumed was based on mother's recall which may not be accurate," Jones who was one of the first doctors to identify Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in 1973, said.

In the Danish study, the data from more than 1,600 women in the Danish National Birth Cohort was analysed. The amount of alcohol taken by the women during their pregnancy was classified as either none, low, moderate, or high. In addition, binge drinking was defined as consuming 5 or more drinks on a single occasion.

When the child reached the age of 5, the kids underwent various development tests. Researchers discovered that no significant association between prenatal alcohol consumption at low and moderate levels and general intelligence, attention, executive function or IQ.

However, only 50 percent of the women invited in the follow-up studies agreed to participate. Moreover, it is possible that those women who drank during pregnancy and who agreed to participate were more likely to have higher functioning children.

However, Chambers, a UCSD School of Medicine professor, revealed that the overwhelming evidence of more than 30 years of research supporting the conclusion that alcohol, especially alcohol consumed in a binge pattern, could be harmful to the developing baby.

"Individual women metabolise alcohol differently, and vary in terms of how susceptible they may be to having an affected child," Chambers said.

"Although we do not want to alarm women who find out they are pregnant and realize that they have consumed low levels of alcohol before they knew they were pregnant, we emphasize that a 'safe' amount of alcohol that any individual woman can drink while pregnant is impossible to establish.

"The best advice continues to be that women should avoid alcohol entirely during the nine months that she is carrying the baby," he added.


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