UK health experts now say it is safe for women to drink during the early months of pregnancy – advice which flies in the face of government guidelines.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), an independent organisation, has said it is safe for women to have ‘less than one drink’ – or 1.5 units – of alcohol a day after the first trimester of pregnancy.
A 125ml of wine at 12.5% alcohol by volume is over just over 1.5 units. Binge drinking is defined as ‘more than five standard drinks’, and may be particularly harmful during pregnancy.
The government’s Department of Health said in May 2007 that women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should not drink at all – and if they must, they should limit intake to two units twice a week.
But after a review of existing evidence NICE has determined ‘there is no consistent evidence of adverse effects from low-to-moderate alcohol during pregnancy, but the evidence is probably not strong enough to rule out any risk.’
While the Portman Group, a drinks industry-funded association that promotes responsible drinking, doesn’t offer its own opinion on the subject, it acknowledges there is frustration over the conflicting guidance.
‘The medical world remains divided on the level of risk of drinking alcohol during pregnancy,’ said a spokesperson.
‘It would be much better if they could reach consensus as this is confusing for consumers.’
NICE’s recommendations are under review until October 29 and the final version will be published in March 2008.
Written by Maggie Rosen