FREE subscriptions for doctors and students... click here
You have 3 more open access pages.
The critical dose for alcohol consumption during pregnancy has not been determined.
It is believed that 'binge' drinking has more detrimental effects on the fetus
than a background alcohol consumption.
Alcohol consumption is associated
with symmetrical growth retardation. Alcohol influences fetal development particularly
in the first trimester. Excessive alcohol intake is associated with the development
of fetal alcohol syndrome.
There is a reported increased incidence of spontaneous
abortions in pregnant mothers who drink alcohol.
NICE state that (1):
- pregnant women and women planning a pregnancy should be advised to avoid
drinking alcohol in the first 3 months of pregnancy if possible because it
may be associated with an increased risk of miscarriage
- if women choose to drink alcohol during pregnancy they should be advised
to drink no more than 1 to 2 UK units once or twice a week (1 unit equals
half a pint of ordinary strength lager or beer, or one shot [25 ml] of spirits.
One small [125 ml] glass of wine is equal to 1.5 UK units). Although there
is uncertainty regarding a safe level of alcohol consumption in pregnancy,
at this low level there is no evidence of harm to the unborn baby
- women should be informed that getting drunk or binge drinking during pregnancy
(defined as more than 5 standard drinks or 7.5 UK units on a single occasion)
may be harmful to the unborn baby
The Chief Medical Officers' guideline is that (2)
- If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the safest approach is not
to drink alcohol at all, to keep risks to your baby to a minimum
- Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby, with the more
you drink the greater the risk.
- NICE (March 2016). Antenatal
care for uncomplicated pregnancies
- DOH (January 2016). How to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a
low level: public consultation on proposed new guidelines.
Last reviewed 09/2020