UK women among worst for drinking in pregnancy
Women in the UK and Irish Republic are among the world's worst for drinking during pregnancy, a study has claimed.
The research, published in the Lancet Global Health medical journal, ranked countries according to the estimated prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy.
It calculated that more than 40% of women in the UK drink alcohol during pregnancy - higher than Russia's 36.5%.
The Republic of Ireland topped the list of the five worst offenders, which also featured Denmark and Belarus.
Notably, all the countries within the top five fell within the World Health Organisation's European region.
At the other end, the five countries with the lowest prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy were Oman, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.
The UK had an estimated rate of 61.3 cases of foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) - of which drinking during pregnancy is an established cause - per 10,000 women, the report claimed.
By contrast, researchers suggested that about 15 of every 10,000 live births worldwide will have FAS.
National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome UK chief executive Sandra Butcher said the findings drove home the huge importance of raising awareness about drinking during pregnancy.
She added: "The latest advice from the UK's chief medical officer is clear, but it has not yet filtered through to all levels of our society. If you are pregnant or think you could become pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all."
The study was conducted by researchers from the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
It concluded: "Further efforts should also be made to better educate women of childbearing age about the risks of alcohol use, especially binge and frequent drinking, during pregnancy."