Light drinking 'does no harm in pregnancy'

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"Women who have had a drink while pregnant should be reassured that they are unlikely to have caused their baby considerable harm, but if anxious, they should discuss this with their GP or midwife", said the researchers in a statement.

Mothers who are consumed by anxiety and guilt for having drunk the odd glass of wine when they are pregnant should be reassured by a new study showing there is very little evidence that it harms the baby, say experts.

Expecting moms may not have anything at all to feel guilty about if they decide to drink a glass of wine on occasion while pregnant, a new study from the University of Bristol says.

The researchers even found that children born to mothers who drank light amounts of alcohol during pregnancy had better outcomes than those born to mothers who completely abstained.

However, the Department of Health and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said the safest course of action is still for women to avoid drinking in pregnancy.

Dr. Paul Jarris, chief medical officer of the March of Dimes, acknowledged that research hasn't been conclusive about low use of alcohol in pregnant women. The researchers said it's also possible that there's no link between a low level of drinking and premature birth.

Also, researchers stated that the lack of eminent data shows the complications of designing research that can truly estimate the causal effect of light alcohol consumption while minimizing the risks of bias and confounding. How light alcohol exposure may affect a developing fetus is less clear.

"As the evidence is uncertain, the lowest risk approach is to avoid alcohol during pregnancy".

Meanwhile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and other health issues.

Though they highlight: "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence".

The analysis indicated that alcohol consumption up to four units per week during pregnancy, on an average, was related to 8% higher risk of undersized babies, compared with consuming no alcohol at all. Therefore, all doctors tell women to avoid drinking high units of alcohol.

But critics have warned this advice is unduly worrying to women, especially those who drink before they discover they are pregnant. "It will be an important challenge for those responsible for public health messages to convey nuanced advice that explains how robust or otherwise the evidence is". It has been hard to associate low levels of alcohol intake in pregnancy and harm, and this work confirms this. It also shows the failure of researchers so far to focus on light versus no alcohol consumption instead of moderate and heavy alcohol consumption.

For example, a 2013 study from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, also published in BMJ Open, followed 6,915 children whose mothers had between none to moderate amounts of alcohol during pregnancy.

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