No alcohol at all in early pregnancy, says report
Women should not drink alcohol at all while they are trying to conceive, or during the first three months of pregnancy, according to new advice.
This updated guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) is a change from the previous position which stated that mothers-to-be should not drink more than two units once or twice per week.
There is no proven safe amount that women can drink during pregnancy and the only way to be certain the baby is not harmed by alcohol is not to drink at all during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
However, small amounts of alcohol after the first trimester do not appear to be harmful, the new information says. After this time women are advised to not drink more than one to two units, more than once or twice a week.
However, drinking around conception and during the first three months of pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage. The guidance says alcohol may affect how the baby's brain develops and how it grows in the womb.
This can lead to foetal growth restriction, increase the risk of stillbirth and premature labour.
Director of the Royal College of Midwives in Northern Ireland, Breedagh Hughes, said it is best not to drink at all during pregnancy, as moderation may mean different things to different women.
"A lot of advice comes out which is contradictory, so I have no doubt further down the line we will see more research which says drinking in moderation is all right in pregnancy," she said. "The difficulty is that it is very hard for an individual woman to decide what is moderation, so the best advice is don't drink at all while you are pregnant."