The UK government has advised women who are pregnant to avoid alcohol altogether - in advice that contradicts its own previous guidance.
Previously government – and most physicians – have advised one to two units per week of wine is acceptable.
The Department of Health admitted the revised position, which also applies to women trying to conceive, was not based on any new medical research.
Indeed, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists continues to maintain that there is no evidence that the previously recommended moderate consumption is detrimental to foetal development.
‘My midwife told me that one two units of alcohol – a pint of beer or a small glass of wine – is fine, and I have been following this advice,’ said Akiko Mumford, an advertising executive in London who is six months pregnant. ‘If I’m out at night and I want to have a drink, I do.’
The Portman Group, a drinks industry-funded association that promotes responsible drinking and a balanced understanding of alcohol-related issues, would not comment on the new recommendation itself.
‘Pregnant women should be made aware of this medical advice and the risk of drinking alcohol during pregnancy,’ said chief executive David Poley. ‘We are having constructive discussions with the government about what more the industry can do to effectively communicate this advice.’
While the effects of binge-drinking are unclear – and heavy consumption during pregnancy is known to cause birth defects – the anti-alcohol and children’s charities claim that no amount is safe, and advocate a blanket ban.
‘To be honest, I am annoyed that the government – which we are supposed to look to for advice – makes these kinds of announcements with no facts to back them up,’ said Mumford.
‘It seems like the anti-alcohol lobby is pushing them into it, and I feel they are ill-informing women across the UK. We’ll end up with a situation very similar to that of the US, where everyone is incredibly judgmental. Most women are smart enough to ask for advice and follow it. I think the recommendation of one to two units is sensible and I am confident I am doing no harm.’
In a similar move, Alcohol Concern recently advocated that parents who serve alcohol at home to their children under 15 should be prosecuted.
Written by Maggie Rosen