Drinking during the early stages of pregnancy increases chances of harming your baby even in small amounts, study finds

The Independent 10 March 2014
Women who drink less than the officially recommended intake of alcohol during the first weeks of pregnancy may still be at higher risk of having smaller babies or of giving birth prematurely compared to women who do not drink alcohol at all, a study has found.

The Department of Health recommends that women should not drink during pregnancy but accepts that some women do and so has recommended that in such cases they drink no more than one or two units of alcohol – equivalent to a small glass of wine – and no more than once or twice a week.

However, the first study to follow a group of British women both before and during pregnancy has found even such small amounts of alcohol each week can have a significant effect on the birth-weight of babies and whether they are born prematurely, which are both linked with poor health later in life.

“We found that the first trimester [12 weeks] to be the period most sensitive to the effect of alcohol on the developing foetus,” the researchers said in a study involved nearly 1,300 pregnant women, published in the British Medical Journal.

“Women adhering to guidelines in this period were still at increased risk of adverse birth outcomes. Our findings suggest that women should be advised to abstain from alcohol when planning to conceive and throughout pregnancy,” the researchers said.