'Limited' evidence light drinking during pregnancy is dangerous, researchers say

Published: 14 September 2017


Pregnant women feeling guilty for enjoying the odd glass of wine or two should relax, say a team of UK researchers.

The Bristol University team say there is ‘surprisingly limited’ evidence that light drinking during pregnancy is harmful to the baby.

While there is strong evidence heavy drinking is harmful and can lead to miscarriage and foetal alcohol syndrome, the team’s research found new solid studies on light drinking – defined as two small drinks a week.

“Despite the distinction between light drinking and abstinence being the point of most tension and confusion for health professionals and pregnant women and contributing to inconsistent guidance and advice now and in the past, our extensive review shows that this specific question is not being researched thoroughly enough, if at all,” the researchers wrote in the BMJ Journal.

Nearly 80 percent of women in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia drink at least some alcohol while they are pregnant, according to the researchers.

However, the team still advocate avoiding all alcohol during pregnancy, ‘just in case.’

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence… formulating guidance on the basis of the current evidence is challenging,” they wrote.

While no overwhelming proof of harm was found in the 26 relevant studies analysed by researchers, seven of the studies associated light drinking with an 8 percent higher risk of having a smaller baby.

The Government’s Department of Health’s official guidance for expecting mothers tis to avoid all alcohol “while pregnant, planning pregnancy or breastfeeding.”